TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After three years of La Niña, El Niño is likely on its way. NOAA now gives El Niño a 90% chance of forming by summer, with a 50% chance of it being a strong episode. El Niño usually means quieter hurricane seasons in the Atlantic.
Over the past 30 years, La Niña years have produced about twice the number of hurricanes that El Niño years have produced in the Atlantic Basin. That’s because El Niño’s warming in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean typically causes more wind shear to travel into the Caribbean and Gulf, inhibiting storms from forming.
But there is a complication this year. Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are very warm – the second warmest on record. This extra energy available to developing storms could cancel out El Niño’s effect. The question is: which feature will be the driving force of the 2023 hurricane season?
In this week’s Climate Classroom, we speak to Dr. Andy Hazelton, a hurricane modeler from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division in Miami, to find out his thoughts on the upcoming hurricane season.
We also highlight the biggest climate headlines of the week!
1. Global Oceans have been far above record-setting levels since the beginning of this year. For the last 3 years, La Nina – a cool episode in the Pacific – has been masking years of excess climate change heat being absorbed by the ocean. El Nino will only add to the ocean heat.
2. Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Myanmar this past weekend. It maxed out with 175 mph winds – the strongest cyclone on record in the Northern Indian Ocean. 1300 refugee shelters were destroyed. A 2022 paper found that the region has seen an increase in extremely severe tropical systems due to a warming ocean.
3. EPA has proposed new rules for power plants. Eliminate 90% of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2038. If put into law, gas and coal plants – which supply 85% of US electricity – will need to install carbon capture technology or switch to renewables. The Inflation Reduction Act contains billions in subsidies for carbon capture, but it has yet to make economic sense -and- it has not been proven at scale. Regardless, power plant operators may now face a choice: Make carbon capture work, however much it costs, or shut down oil and gas plants.
4. And lastly, potentially good news for Nuclear fusion, known as the holy grail of energy – the power source that fuels the sun. It always seems like it is 20 years off. But Microsoft just signed a power purchase deal with the company Helion starting in 2028. That said, industrial fusion is not nearly ready yet and experts are skeptical they can make the time framework. But this announcement could be the moon shot needed to force fusion into fruition.