Buckle up, folks: the North Atlantic is going to have a busy hurricane season in 2022. This year is forecasted to have at least 19 named storms and nine hurricanes, four of which are predicted to be “major,” as per a recent update from Colorado State University.
This number of predicted storms in this year's upcoming Atlantic Hurricane season is significantly up from the 1991-2020 annual average of 14.4 storms and above the annual average of 7.2 hurricanes.
“We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” the scientists wrote in the update.
The Atlantic hurricane season is the period – officially running from June through November, with activity generally peaking in September – when hurricanes and storms are especially common in the North Atlantic Ocean. Some hurricanes can make landfall and cause devastation in the Caribbean and southeastern US coastal states such as Florida, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
There are a few reasons this period sees so many hurricanes, but the main driver is the difference that occurs between temperatures and sea surface temperatures that builds up in the late summer.
Hurricane seasons are also influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, a climate cycle that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Pacific Ocean. This has wide-reaching implications for the whole planet's climate and weather.
El Niño refers to the warm phase, when the Pacific's warmest surface waters sit offshore of northwestern South America, while La Niña refers to the cold phase when there are below-average sea surface temperatures across the east-central Pacific. El Niño helps to strengthen hurricane activity in the central and eastern Pacific basins while suppressing it in the Atlantic basin. However, since the odds of a significant El Niño in 2022 seem unlikely, hurricane activity in the Atlantic will be left largely unsuppressed.
This year's forecast comes off the back of a string of particularly wild Atlantic hurricane seasons. Last year saw an “above average” hurricane season, while 2020 endured the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, featuring a total of 31 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 30 of which were named.
A storm’s name is picked from one of six annually rotating lists of 21 names in alphabetical order (avoiding some letters like Q and U) created by the World Meteorological Organization. According to the National Hurricane Center, 2022’s names will be: Agatha, Blas, Celia, Darby, Estelle, Frank, Georgette, Howard, Ivette, Javier, Kay, Lester, Madeline, Newton, Orlene, Paine, Roslyn, Seymour, Tina, Virgil, Winifred, Xavier, Yolanda, and Zeke
You may remember that 2020 had such a busy hurricane season that the alphabetical list of names was exhausted, forcing authorities to turn to the Greek alphabet, naming storms Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, and Theta.
Luckily, 2022’s hurricane season is not anticipated to be as chaotic as previous years, but it’s not likely to be a quiet one either.