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Forecasters predict ‘above normal’ Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA says; record warm sea temperatures cited

Boats floated in Great Harbor in Woods Hole during Hurricane Bob on Aug. 19, 1991.Bill Greene

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting “an above-normal level of activity” during the ongoing Atlantic hurricane season, the agency said Thursday.

“NOAA forecasters have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60% (increased from the outlook issued in May, which predicted a 30% chance),” the agency said in a statement.

The agency based its prediction on ocean and atmospheric conditions, including record-warm Atlantic surface temperatures.

The agency said its updated forecast calls for 14 to 21 named storms with winds of 39 miles per hour or stronger, 6 to 11 of which could become hurricanes, with winds 74 miles per hour or greater. Of those, two to five could become major hurricanes, with winds reaching 111 miles, NOAA said.


“The main climate factors expected to influence the 2023 Atlantic hurricane activity are the ongoing El Niño and the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, including record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Considering those factors, the updated outlook calls for more activity, so we urge everyone to prepare now for the continuing season.”

El Nino is a natural climate phenomenon marked by warmer sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator, which occurs on average every two to seven years, according to the National Weather Service.

El Niño conditions typically help to reduce “tropical activity” during the hurricane season. But this season, those “limiting conditions” have developed slowly, prompting forecasters to predict a more active hurricane season.

The last hurricane to make landfall in Massachusetts was Hurricane Bob in 1991, officials said.

After swirling up the Eastern Seaboard, Bob caused $680 million in damage in New England, including $39 million in Massachusetts, officials said. The southeastern part of the state, especially along Buzzards Bay, bore the brunt of the destruction.


Tourists who had flocked to Cape Cod for a beach escape found a battered coastline — parts of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard lost 50 feet of sand. The winds riled up hordes of bees and wasps, whose angry stings filled emergency rooms.

“Bob crossed Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with the center moving between Boston and Scituate,” the weather service says on its website. “It then moved over Massachusetts Bay. The hurricane continued to weaken and began losing tropical characteristics as it passed just offshore of the southern coast of Maine and made landfall as a tropical storm near Rockland, Maine, on August 20.”

Bob was a swiftly moving storm that forced tens of thousands of vacationers and residents from Connecticut to Maine to scurry to accommodations inland or shelters that were opened in hundreds of schools, churches, and community centers.

One hurricane-related fatality was reported, in Dorchester. Sonya Chambers, 19, died after being thrown from a car that hit a truck at Morton and Norfolk streets. The accident took place at an intersection where the traffic light had been knocked out by high winds.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.

Travis Andersen can be reached at