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Hurricane experts still expect more storms than normal as peak of season approaches

Aug. 4, 2022 Updated Thu., Aug. 4, 2022 at 8:04 p.m.

Hurricane seasons pick up steam from mid-August into October in general such as this satellite image showing Hurricane Sam and Tropical Storm Victor on Oct. 1, 2021, in the Atlantic.  (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/TNS)
Hurricane seasons pick up steam from mid-August into October in general such as this satellite image showing Hurricane Sam and Tropical Storm Victor on Oct. 1, 2021, in the Atlantic. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/TNS)
By Joe Mario Pedersen Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. – Although tropical storms have been off to slower start this year than anticipated, experts are still calling for the 2022 season to be an above-average year.

Both Colorado State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for above-average seasons in their updated August forecasts of what the rest of the season, which ends Nov. 30, may look like. So far, 2022 is producing the norm in storm production, three storms by Aug. 4. But meteorologists expect the tropics to start picking up steam as the peak of season approaches, or the time where the most tropical storms are typically observed.

“We’re just getting into the peak months of August through October for hurricane development, and we anticipate that more storms are on the way,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad.

The NOAA kept its storm-total predictions from May the same, forecasting a likely range of 14 to 21 named storms. NOAA defines an average season as having 14.

Of the predicted total, scientists are expecting to see six to 10 become hurricanes; with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher, and three to six major hurricanes – also known as Category 3, 4 and 5 storms; with maximum sustained winds greater than 110 mph.

CSU adjusted its July prediction of tropical storms from 20 to 18. CSU also changed the amount of hurricanes it predicted from 10 to eight, and its count of major hurricanes from five to four.

But why did CSU adjust its count?

The answer is due to the subtropical Atlantic experiencing cooling along the sea surface, which could lead to increased vertical wind shear – a hurricane deterrent that breaks up organized winds from properly circulating and becoming tropical storms.

However, CSU and the NOAA found the majority of Atlantic sea-surface temperatures to be warmer than normal, fueling their predictions for enhanced hurricane activity. Adding to that is the persistent, Pacific cooling presence of La Niña – an atmospheric current that can weaken vertical wind shear in the Atlantic. Experts predict La Niña to linger throughout the rest of the season.

As for major storms, CSU predicted the entire continental U.S. coastline has a 68% chance of seeing a Category 3 hurricane or higher make landfall. Meteorologists gave the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, a 43% chance, which is higher than the full-season average of 31% from the last century. The Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, Texas also was given a 43% chance – higher than the full-season average of 30%.

“Communities and families should prepare now for the remainder of what is still expected to be an active hurricane season,” said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service. “Ensure that you are ready to take action if a hurricane threatens your area by developing an evacuation plan and gathering hurricane supplies now, before a storm is bearing down on your community.”

So far, 2022 has three named tropical storms: Alex, Bonnie and Colin. Comparatively, by this time of the year, 2020 had nine named storms and a tropical depression – although that year is considered an outlier. The last two years saw record-breaking storm production, with 2020 becoming the busiest recorded hurricane season in the Atlantic’s history totaling 30 named storms, and 2021 earning the third-place title for busiest year with 21 named storms.

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