The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting the seventh above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in a row.
“We will be extending the record period,” said Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA’s lead for the seasonal hurricane outlook. Rosencrans discussed the NOAA 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook in detail during a monthly Southeast climate meeting co-sponsored by several climate science partner organizations. “Not anywhere in the past have we had six consecutive seasons above normal,” Rosencrans said.
Issued in May, NOAA’s Outlook predicts a 65% chance of an above-normal season. That includes 14-21 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes and 3-6 major hurricanes. According to Rosencrans, the previous record was three consecutive above-normal seasons, 2010-2012. To put that into context, the Atlantic has been in a period of high activity since 1995. The previous known period of high activity was between 1950 and 1971. “You’re not imagining it’s been busier. It has actually been busier,” he said.
More tropical storms on the record are partially a matter of technology. Rosencrans said better detection technology these days has allowed for an increase in recorded tropical storms, whereas decades ago they may have been missed. However, there’s also been an increase in storms that go from hurricane to major hurricane, which are category 3, 4, and 5 storms. “That’s quite a difference from any past climate regimes,” Rosencrans said. A high activity era also means a 25% increase in Gulf Coast landfalls 100% increase in Atlantic Coast landfalls. “There’s quite a shift in the Atlantic pattern during active years,” Rosencrans explained.
Globally, this year may also see its third consecutive La Niña climate pattern. Three years of La Niña back-to-back is also a rare event according to Rosencrans. Conditions set by La Niña favor increased tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Atlantic. “It doesn’t necessarily add up, each season is independent,” but the change in wind shear and increased moisture in the middle part of the Atlantic allow for more tropical activity.
This year has seen activity ahead of schedule compared to other years. The average date for the second named storm of the season is July 17. This year, Tropical Storm Bonnie gained its name on Friday. Regardless of the timing, Rosencrans said Floridians should prepare every year “as if a Hurricane is coming towards you.” The season has been relatively mild so far, and Rosencrans advised to take advantage of this time and prepare now. “Everything may not be at your fingertips” when the time comes, he said.
NOAA will be issuing another Outlook in early August. Historically, 90% of Atlantic activity falls after August 1.