'La Niña' is over: What does this mean for Florida's 2023 hurricane outlook?
ORLANDO, Fla. - When the waters off of the northwest coast of South America cool down to unusual levels for a prolonged period, as stronger-than-normal trade winds upwell colder waters at the bottom of the Pacific to the surface, it's nicknamed, "La Niña."
Strangely enough, this broad oceanic feature influences weather thousands of miles away, and our case leads to perfect conditions for hurricanes to develop and thrive in the Atlantic Ocean with subsequent landfall.
When La Niña is happening, Florida's chance of experiencing a direct hit from a hurricane also increases. Now that La Niña has ended, and the waters have returned to normal temperatures, "neutral" conditions have developed which should calm our hurricane activity back to more typical levels in the Atlantic Ocean – compared to last season's above-normal count.
Fewer tropical systems forming means fewer threats to our coastline. It's like weather roulette.
That said, it's important to keep your guard up, as the statistical chance for a hurricane landfalling in Florida during a La Niña season – versus a neutral season – actually doesn't change in a distinguishable way, per a 2002 FSU study.
The theory, however, is that even if we are in the storm track based on the Atlantic's tropical system steering currents, there would be fewer storm threats overall. But, even a slower neutral season, such as the one that occurred in 1992, can still be deadly.
That year, the first named storm didn't form until late-August and its name was "Andrew." The Category 5 storm nearly flattened Homestead, Florida, and caused devastation all the way to Louisiana.
In some news of hope, there are signs of an El Niño pattern establishing in those Pacific waters this fall, which would be during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. The opposite of La Niña, El Niño is an unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of Ecuador. This tends to increase the speed of our Atlantic trade winds, tearing apart developing tropical systems before they can really get going.
Fewer hurricanes mean even lower chances for devastating landfalls in Florida. So, after 2022's season with the one-two punch of hurricanes Ian and Nicole, we can be hopeful for a less active 2023 with fewer blockbuster threats.