RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The National Hurricane Season released its annual outlook for the upcoming 2023 hurricane season on Thursday.

This year’s forecast is calling for a “near normal” season with 12-17 “named storms” including 5-9 hurricanes, of which 1-4 could become category 3 or stronger hurricanes.

Forecasters also noted a “higher than normal” level of uncertainty for the upcoming season due to competing factors that sometimes lead to above average activity, while others generally result in below average activity.

If this season turns into an active stretch for tropical storm and hurricane formation, it will likely be due to the above average sea surface temperatures.

As we conclude the month of May, water temperatures across the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic are well above average for this time of year. That means more fuel to enhance tropical development will be available.

On the other hand, we have transitioned from a La Niña to an El Niño phase in the Pacific. This climate pattern has historically resulted in winds aloft that tend to disrupt tropical development, and lead to below average tropical seasons with fewer named storms.

These competing factors led to the lower confidence forecast than previous hurricane seasons when above average tropical development was expected.

This season’s NOAA outlook comes after similar forecasts were released over the last few weeks from NC State and Colorado State. Both institutions called for near normal seasons.

The next tropical system that develops will actually be the second official storm of the season.

Earlier in May, the National Hurricane Center announced that an unnamed subtropical storm actually had already developed in January off the U.S. East Coast.

January Subtropical Storm 2023

The system did not receive a name even though it was the first tropical system of 2023 in the Atlantic basin. This means the next time we have a storm form it will get the name Arlene or if it is just a depression it will be tropical depression #2.