The 2023 hurricane season in the North Atlantic is ramping up with a record number of tropical storms underway, with no less than four systems having formed within the span of two days. This follows in the wake of the Pacific’s Hurricane Hilary making a rare track up through the Baja Peninsula into Southern California, where 26 million residents across four states were under flood watches or warnings.
The National Hurricane Center is currently tracking five storm systems in the North Atlantic; four of them, Emily, Franklin, Gert and Harold, are named storms, with Harold already having made landfall in Texas on the morning of August 22, and Gert forecast to hit the Dominican Republic on the 23rd. Thankfully, none of these storms are expected to be of major significance, with wind speeds well below hurricane levels.
But the number of storm systems that formed did so in record time: Emily, Franklin, Gert and Harold all appeared within a span of just 39 hours, beating the record of 48 hours for the same number of storms set in 1893 and 1980. This dubious distinction is in line with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) August 10 forecast that the 2023 North Atlantic hurricane season has a 65 percent chance of being “above-normal”, in part due to record-high water surface temperatures in not only the Atlantic, but around the world.
On the other side of the continent, Hurricane Hilary made a rare northbound track up the coast of Mexico’s Baja peninsula as a category 4 storm, fueled by 30°C (86°F) sea surface temperatures, low wind shear and high relative humidity levels, cranking wind speeds to 230 km/h (145 mph) by the time it made landfall in San Quintín, Baja California, on August 20; this is also the first time a tropical storm has entered California since Hurricane Nora did so in 1997.
Hilary caused extensive flooding in both Mexico and California, with flood warnings issued in Los Angeles, and flooding occurred in Palm Springs and San Diego. Further inland, Death Valley National Park’s Furnace Creek recorded 56 millimeters (2.2 inches) of rain, a record amount of rainfall for the location in the time since record-keeping began in the early twentieth century. Overall, Hilary has caused at least four deaths so far.
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