The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast an “higher-than-normal” hurricane season in the Atlantic this year, the agency announced Tuesday. If implemented, 2022 will be the seventh year in a row with an above-average season.
Scientists have calculated a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of a season below normal, Rick Spinrad, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said at a press conference Tuesday. The normal range. seasons.
Season – which officially runs from June 1 through November 3. 30, although storms can develop outside of that period — they likely include 14 to 21 named storms, a category that includes all tropical cyclones with maximum winds of at least 39 mph. Of those, six to ten are expected to reach hurricane strength, meaning sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Of this subgroup, three to six people are expected to reach Class 3 or higher, which means sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
NOAA’s seasonal forecasts for the general activity of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean do not predict the number of storms that will pass near or over land.
But “it only takes one storm to damage your home, your neighbors, and your community.” Spinrad said. “Preparedness is the key to resilience, and now is the time to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.”
Several elements have informed the forecast, among them La Niña, a broad climate pattern that has been on and off since 2020 and affects many aspects of weather, including drought in the western United States. La Niña is expected to persist through the entire hurricane season, maintaining the conditions that lead to hurricane formation.
Another factor is the strong monsoons in West Africa, which support the development of areas of low atmospheric pressure known as the East African waves, from which severe storms can form. At the same time, the tropical Atlantic trade winds are weaker than average, making it easier for a developing storm to coalesce without being broken up by the winds. NOAA is also forecasting unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic this summer, and storms gaining strength as they pass over warm waters.
The classification system used by NOAA — which classifies events of increasing intensity as tropical depressions, tropical storms and Category 1 through Category 5 hurricanes — is based solely on sustainable maximum wind speeds and does not reflect the size or intensity of precipitation.
But rainfall and floods can often cause more damage than winds, and the devastation can extend far beyond the southern coastal regions commonly affected by hurricanes. Last September, the remnants of Hurricane Ida devastated the New York metropolitan area with more than three inches of rain in an hour, although its winds were well below hurricane strength by that point.
Broadly speaking, many of the patterns that have led to above-average hurricane seasons, and other extreme weather conditions, are linked to climate change.
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Climate change is producing more powerful storms, emptying more water due to heavy rainfall and a tendency to slow down and meander; Rising sea levels and slower storms can cause higher and more destructive storm surges. But humans are playing a role in making storm damage more costly, too, by continuing to build in vulnerable coastal areas.
“We are seeing such a dramatic change in the type of weather events we experience as a result of climate change,” Dean Cresswell, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday, stressing the need for individual preparedness. .
As the season begins, forecasters will keep an eye on the Loop Current, a warm region in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Their location varies from year to year, and smaller currents known as eddies can separate from the main stream, bringing warmer-than-average water into the far north of the bay.
This is not a factor in seasonal forecasts because the effects depend on the geography of individual storms, said Matthew Rosenkrans, chief hurricane forecaster for the NOAA Center for Climate Prediction. If the path of the storm does not cross the current, it will not be relevant. But storms that cross the annular current or eddy can intensify quickly and dangerously, as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did in 2005—and this current year looks a lot like 2005.
“The Loop Current appears to be active this year; we are seeing warm waters being pushed into the bay.” Rosencrans said. “If a storm forms and then moves over where the current loop is, it could be an explosive energy source.”