Well, we are officially two months into the Atlantic hurricane season and it got off to a quick start, as we had Tropical Storm Alex occur at the beginning of June, Tropical Storm Bonnie at the end of June, followed by TS Colin near the South Carolina coastline at the start of July. This was not unexpected, as our outlook issued back in mid-May indicated that a quick start was a possibility. Since then, the season has gone dead quiet, as the tropical Atlantic has not seen a single storm since the beginning of July. So, what gives? There has been a ton of dry air and wind shear in place across much of the tropical Atlantic over the past several weeks, which inhibits thunderstorms and ultimately tropical systems from developing. At this point it may seem like the season is on its way to being lackluster after a quick start and that the forecast is on its way to busting....but in the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend!"
Courtesy of NOAA
The chart above shows the number of storms that occur in the tropical Atlantic at various points in the season (based on climatology) and you can see that it is actually quite common for little activity through July, as the majority of the storms occur from mid-August through mid-October, with the peak being around September 10th. In fact, we still have about 90% of the season to go, in regards to activity. OK, this chart seems convincing, but are there any indications that activity will soon pick up?
In our Atlantic hurricane outlook issued back in May, we mentioned that La Niña would hold steady or even slowly weaken through the summer. La Niña has weakened a little bit since late spring, but there are signs it will continue to hold steady or even strengthen a bit the rest of the summer.
Courtesy of NOAA/CPC
The loop above shows water temperatures just below the surface of the ocean across the equatorial Pacific. The trend since mid-June has been to cool the waters in central and eastern areas, which is an indication La Niña is trying to strengthen once again. This is signficant because La Niña favors less wind shear in the Atlantic, which is favorable for tropical development. Also, the latest model projections are for a decrease in wind shear, a decrease in dry air, and for more favorable tropical forcing over the next few weeks. In other words, there will be less sinking air and more rising air (needed for thunderstorm development and tropical systems).
Given these trends, we are feeling confident that our initial forecast is on track as we projected the majority of the activity to occur after August 1st, which was supported by our initial summer analogs. In fact, our updated analogs for summer and fall very much support the idea of a fairly active rest of the season. With that said, we are staying course with the forecast below:
WeatherWorks forecast for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season
OK, so the rest of the season is expected to be active, but where will these storms go? Models are projecting a ridge of high pressure to remain close to Bermuda or in the central Atlantic the next few weeks. Also, the sea surface temperatures in the eastern part of the Atlantic are cooler than normal, meaning long lived systems that develop off the West Coast of Africa are a bit less likely. With these factors in mind, we are favoring storm development a bit closer to home in the central Atlantic and especially in the Carribean and off the East Coast. With the central Atlantic ridge in place, there is a decent risk of a fair number of storms staying out to sea and missing the United States. However, we believe several storms will have the opportunity to provide direct impacts to the United States. In fact, our updated summer and fall analog package paints a similar picture as our initial strike probability projections. This indicates that the mid-Atlantic coast has a greater than normal risk of getting a direct hit, especially from North Carolina to Long Island. Remember, it only takes one storm to create an impactful season. We'll keep you posted on the latest developments into the fall.