Colorado State University hurricane researchers are predicting an active Atlantic hurricane season in 2022, citing the likely absence of El Niño as a primary factor. Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are near their long-term averages, while Caribbean and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are warmer than their long-term averages. The warmer Caribbean and eastern part of the subtropical Atlantic also favor an active 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.
The tropical Pacific currently has weak La Niña conditions, that is, water temperatures are somewhat cooler than normal in the eastern and central tropical Pacific. While La Niña may weaken and transition to neutral conditions by this summer, the CSU researchers do not currently anticipate El Niño for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.
While tropical Atlantic water temperatures are currently near their long-term averages, the warmer-than-normal subtropical eastern Atlantic typically forces 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.
19 named storms
The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 19 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Of those, researchers expect nine to become hurricanes and four to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.
The team bases its forecasts on a statistical model, as well as three models that use a combination of statistical information and model output from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the UK Met Office and the Japan Meteorological Agency, respectively. These models use 25-40 years of historical hurricane seasons and evaluate conditions including: Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (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, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2012 and 2021. “Our analog seasons generally exhibited near- to somewhat above-normal Atlantic hurricane activity,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the CSU Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.
The team predicts that 2022 hurricane activity will be about 130% of the average season from 1991-2020. 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 US.
The CSU team will issue forecast updates on June 2, 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. 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:
- 71% for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52%)
- 47% for the U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31%)
- 46% for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30%)
- 60% 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 US East Coast, as well as hurricane-prone coastal 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, Weatherboy, Evex and a grant from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.
Extended range Atlantic Basin hurricane forecast for 2022
Released April 7, 2022
Tropical Cyclone Parameters Extended Range
(1991–2020 Climatological Average Forecast for 2022
Named Storms (14.4)* 19
Named Storm Days (69.4) 90
Hurricanes (7.2) 9
Hurricane Days (27.0) 35
Major Hurricanes (3.2) 4
Major Hurricane Days (7.4) 9
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (123) 160
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (135%) 170
* Numbers in ( ) represent averages based on 1991–2020 data.