After two consecutive years of exhausting the hurricane name list, forecasters are predicting 19 named storms this hurricane season, five more than normal.
Of the 19 storms, nine are expected to become hurricanes, and four are expected to become major hurricanes – Category 3 or higher – with winds exceeding 111 miles per hour, according to hurricane experts at Colorado State University (CSU).
CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project team released its annual Atlantic basin hurricane seasonal forecast Thursday, marking the 39th year they have issued a preseason report.
The report details another very active hurricane season – which runs from June 1 to November 30 – and includes an above-average forecast for all categories of storms.
This year’s forecast looks eerily similar to predictions for the past two years.
Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the CSU Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report, compared the 2022 forecast to those of 2021 and 2020.
“For example, in both April 2020 and April 2021, we forecast eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. This year, we’re forecasting nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes,” Klotzbach told CNN.
The new hurricane season is shaping up to be just as, if not slightly more, active than last year’s, which was the third most active season on record.
“The team predicts that 2022 hurricane activity will be about 130 percent of the average season from 1991-2020. By comparison, 2021’s hurricane activity was about 120 percent of the average season,” the report stated.
A forecast of 19 named storms for this coming season tops the past two years as the most named storms CSU has forecast in an April outlook.
“One of the reasons that we are forecasting more named storms than we have in prior years is that we are naming more storms now than we used to is due to technological improvements,” Klotzbach explained.
Because of improvements in satellites, they are now able to detect weak storms that may have been missed even 20-30 years ago, Klotzbach added.
With the two previous years exhausting name lists, 2022 may add a third consecutive year to the record.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has a supplemental list of Atlantic tropical cyclone names just in case.
Reason behind the active Atlantic season
The primary factor contributing to an overactive season in the Atlantic is “the likely absence of El Niño,” according to the hurricane researchers at CSU.
The tropical Pacific is currently under weak La Niña conditions, a pattern known for cooler-than-average ocean temperatures around the equator.
The phenomenon has impacts on weather around the globe.
La Niña presents favorable conditions for hurricanes in contrast to that of El Niño. Hurricane seasons under El Niño conditions are known for upper-level wind patterns across the Caribbean that tear hurricanes apart as they try to form, making the seasons less active.
“While La Niña may weaken and transition to neutral conditions by this summer, CSU does not currently anticipate El Niño for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season,” the report said.
The report added, “the warmer Caribbean and eastern part of the subtropical Atlantic also favor an active 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.”
Tropical storms crave warm ocean water, which helps fuel their growth and development. It is one of the key reasons scientists say the climate crisis is changing hurricanes in the Atlantic. Warmer water and air can supercharge rainfall rates, making it more likely a landfalling hurricane will lead to disastrous flooding. Sea level rise has also increased storm surge damage.
“We know that, in general, hurricanes are intensifying faster,” Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy and professor at Texas Tech University, previously told CNN. “They are bigger and stronger than they would be otherwise; they have a lot more rainfall associated with them, and rising sea level exacerbates storm surge.”
Although recent seasons have seen an increase in hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin, research has shown an overall decreasing trend in hurricanes globally since 1990.
“We ascribed the reason behind this to be due to a trend towards more frequent La Niñas and fewer El Niños over the past 30 years,” Klotzbach told CNN, citing his recently published research.
La Niña conditions tend to increase hurricane activity in the Atlantic, but decrease hurricane/typhoon activity in the Pacific basin, according to Klotzbach.
“Given that the Pacific is a much larger basin and generally spins up many more storms than the Atlantic, we’ve seen an overall trend towards fewer global hurricane-strength tropical cyclones despite the heightened activity we’ve observed in the Atlantic,” Klotzbach said.
Stay ahead of hurricane season
“It only takes one storm near you to make this an active season,” Michael Bell, professor in the CSU Department of Atmospheric Science, pointed out.
Coastal communities are warned to start making proper precautions for an active hurricane season now.
The probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the US coastline is 71%, well above the average of 52% for the past century, according to the report.
A greater than two-thirds chance of a major hurricane making landfall should inspire those in hurricane-prone areas to start taking action now. The damage from Category 4 Hurricane Ida, which battered the Gulf Coast in 2021, serves as a stark reminder of the power of major tropical cyclones.
Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 1-7, during which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) encourages people to determine their hurricane risk, make an evacuation plan, and gather emergency supplies in case of a hurricane affecting their area.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC), a branch of NOAA, is expected to release iits first five-day tropical outlook for the 2022 hurricane season May 15.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center plans to issue its seasonal outlook May 24.
CSU will also update its forecast June 2, July 7 and August 4 to keep the public as up-to-date as possible.