CSU researchers increase forecast, now predict very active 2022 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane ida

Colorado State University hurricane researchers have increased their forecast and now predict a well above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2022. The odds of El Niño for this year’s hurricane season are now quite low, and the odds of La Niña conditions have increased relative to what was projected with the initial outlook in early April.

Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are now warmer than normal, while the eastern Atlantic is much warmer than normal. This type of sea surface temperature configuration is considered quite favorable for an active 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.

The tropical eastern and central Pacific currently has weak La Niña conditions; that is, the water temperatures there are somewhat below average. CSU researchers anticipate that these waters will likely remain slightly (e.g., cool neutral ENSO) to somewhat below normal (e.g., La Niña) for the Atlantic hurricane season. They believe that El Niño is extremely unlikely this year. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.

The tropical Atlantic currently is warmer than normal, while the eastern Atlantic from the subtropics to the mid-latitudes is much warmer than normal. This type of sea surface temperature configuration tends to force a weaker subtropical high and associated weaker winds blowing across the tropical Atlantic. These conditions then lead to warmer waters in the tropical Atlantic for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.

20 named storms

The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 20 named storms in 2022. Of those, researchers expect 10 to become hurricanes and five to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. This forecast is an increase from the early April outlook which predicted 19 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

The team bases its forecasts on a statistical model, as well as three models that use a combination of statistical information and forecasts from dynamical models from the UK Met Office, the Japan Meteorological Agency and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. These models are built on 25-40 years of historical hurricane seasons and evaluate conditions including: Atlantic sea surface temperature, sea level pressure, vertical wind shear (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.

So far, the 2022 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1996, 1999, 2000, 2008, 2011 and 2021. “1996, 1999, 2008 and 2021 had above-average activity, while 2000 and 2011 had near-average activity,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.

The team predicts that 2022 hurricane activity will be about 145% of the average season. By comparison, 2021’s hurricane activity was about 120% of the average season. The 2021 hurricane season had eight continental U.S. named storm and two continental U.S. landfalling hurricanes, including Category 4 Hurricane Ida which battered the central Gulf Coast and then brought devastating flooding to the mid-Atlantic and northeast U.S.

The CSU team will issue forecast updates on July 7 and Aug. 4.

This is the 39th year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued an Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast. The Tropical Meteorology Project team also includes Michael Bell, professor in the CSU Department of Atmospheric Science, and Alex DesRosiers, graduate research assistant in the same department. Bill Gray, who originated the seasonal forecasts, launched the report in 1984 and continued to author them until his death in 2016.

The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity in the Atlantic during the upcoming season – not an exact measure.

As always, the researchers caution coastal residents to take proper precautions.

“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.

Landfalling probability included in report

The report also includes the probability of major hurricanes making landfall:

  • 76% for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52%)
  • 51% for the U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31%)
  • 50% for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30%)
  • 65% for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42%)

The forecast team also provides probabilities of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes tracking within 50 miles of each county or parish along the Gulf and U.S. East Coast, as well as hurricane-prone coastal states, Mexican states, Canadian provinces and countries in Central America and the Caribbean. These probabilities for regions and countries are adjusted based on the current seasonal forecast and its projected effects on the upcoming hurricane season.

Funding for this year’s report has been provided by Ironshore Insurance, the Insurance Information Institute, First Onsite, Weatherboy and a grant from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.

Extended range Atlantic Basin hurricane forecast for 2022

Released June 2, 2022
Tropical Cyclone Parameters Extended Range
(1991-2020 Climatological Average Forecast for 2022
in parentheses)
Named Storms (14.4)* 20
Named Storm Days (69.4) 95
Hurricanes (7.2) 10
Hurricane Days (27.0) 40
Major Hurricanes (3.2) 5
Major Hurricane Days (7.4) 11
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (123) 180
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (135%) 195
* Numbers in ( ) represent averages based on 1991-2020 data.