The 2023 Central Pacific hurricane season starts June 1, and this year forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict a 50% chance of above-normal tropical cyclone activity.
They predict four to seven tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) for the Central Pacific hurricane region, which is north of the equator between 140°W and the International Date Line.
The outlook also indicates a 35% chance for near-normal activity (4 or 5 tropical cyclones) and only a 15% chance of a below-normal hurricane season.
But Gov. Josh Green and other officials said on Wednesday that it only takes one storm to wreak havoc on Hawai‘i.
“Whether we ultimately predict three storms or five storms, we’ll be ready,” Green said. “But … one serious storm that hits head-on can do incredible damage.”
Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, added: “The last few hurricane seasons have been pretty quiet around Hawaiʻi, luring some folks to let their guard down. Now it’s looking like this season will be more active than the past several years.”
The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal tropical cyclone activity in the central Pacific basin, and does not predict whether or how many of these systems will affect Hawai‘i. The central Pacific hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
Green and Laura Kay Rand, Hawaiʻi Foodbank vice president and chief impact officer, urged residents to prepare and plan for a hurricane scenario. They recommended residents have access to 14 days worth of supplies, including water, food and medication.
“I was speaking to the governor of Guam yesterday, and she was standing in several inches of water in her governor’s residence,” said Green, referring to the aftermath of Typhoon Mawar, which recently struck the U.S. territory. “So [a storm] affects all. It’s something that’s very serious.”
Rand acknowledged stocking up on two weeks of hurricane supplies is a challenge. She recommended Hawai‘i residents stock up on food incrementally.
“We know that for some folks, every day is an emergency,” Rand said. “It is Hurricane Preparedness Week, so we are sending out extra boxes of food to the people who we serve, and suggesting that they hold on [to it] for the next six months.
“Sometimes it’s really humbling to admit that you need food … If you know if somebody needs help, please reach out to your local food banks.”
Hawai‘i also appears set to experience an El Niño that is expected to last into next year. The El Niño, or warm ocean current, will exacerbate the state’s normal dry season, leading to drought, according to NOAA experts speaking alongside Green.
“By the end of the dry season, we’re fully expecting we’re going to have some areas with severe and possibly extreme drought again, especially in the leeward areas of the Big Island and Maui County,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the NOAA National Weather Service Honolulu.
“That drought is probably going to extend through the next wet season, then into the next dry season,” Kodama continued, comparing the forecasted drought to the one during the 2009-10 season. “That was one of our worst droughts that we’ve had in the last 30 to 50 years, so it’s not looking good in terms of rainfall.”
The predicted drought will hit residents of the Puna district on the Big Island particularly hard, because they rely on rain catchment systems for their water, Kodama said.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center continuously monitors weather conditions using satellites, land-and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA and its partners. These observations are fed into complex computer models that run on NOAA’s supercomputers. Forecasters use that information to develop storm track and intensity forecasts and provide critical decision support services to emergency managers at the federal, state and county levels.
This summer, NOAA will increase its supercomputing capacity by 20%, allowing for more detailed, higher-resolution forecast models, advanced physics and improved data assimilation. Once implemented, the computing system will be able to perform 29 quadrillion calculations per second. The expansion will allow for forecast model upgrades for years to come, starting with the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center will extend the forecast range of the Tropical Weather Outlook from five to seven days this season. The seven-day outlook will provide emergency managers and communities with more time to prepare for tropical activity and creates a seamless suite of products when combined with the two-week Global Tropical Hazards Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.
Check for watches and warnings on the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s website throughout the season, and visit FEMA’s Ready.gov for additional hurricane preparedness tips.
For more information about the outlook: NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.