The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season could be slightly less active than recent years, according to the annual preseason forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Federal meteorologists predicted a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season with 12 to 17 named storms, including five to nine reaching hurricane strength with winds exceeding 75 mph and up to four becoming major hurricanes with sustained wind speeds topping 111 mph. An average season produces 14 named storms, including seven developing to hurricane strength, with three attaining major hurricane status.

Officials expect El Niño effects on the atmosphere and oceans to be more of a factor than in the past three years, when La Niña influences were less favorable for tropical storm formation. Meteorologists say the trend toward more active hurricane seasons has been consistent since 1995.

“With a changing climate, the data and expertise NOAA provides to emergency managers and partners to support decision-making before, during and after a hurricane has never been more crucial," said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad.

The government is using new hurricane forecast modeling to extend tropical cyclone outlooks from five days to seven to give communities more time to prepare for severe tropical weather. Improvements in data analytics are expected to enhance accuracy on intensification and projected landfalls.

“It only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives," said Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It is critical that everyone understand their risk and heed the warnings of state and local officials. Whether you live on the coast or further inland, hurricanes can cause serious impacts to everybody in their path."

In 2022, two major hurricanes, Fiona and Ian, achieved Category 4 strength with sustained winds of 140 mph, causing widespread damage.

Federal officials said the 14 named storms that threatened the U.S. last year caused $117 billion in damage. Overall costs to the federal government related to hurricanes over the past five years exceeded the total amounts paid out in the previous 15 years combined, Criswell said.

Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorological Project, which has tracked storm formation since 1984, predicted slightly less storm activity than average in its preseason forecast in early May. The CSU this year predicts 13 named storms, including six reaching hurricane strength.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30. Utility, transportation and public safety officials typically begin seasonal preparations for storm activity by mid-spring.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center updates its seasonal forecast in early August, and CSU researchers will issue updated monthly forecasts starting June 1.