What are we to make of the quiet 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season to date? Expect its way too early to write the 2022 season off. Forecasts of an active season continue, and history shows 90% of tropical development there has occurred beyond this date.
The thus far comparatively quiet 2022 Atlantic hurricane season—one which virtually all government, university and private meteorological forecasters indicate is likely to end up an active one—is the subject of great interest. It’s been nearly a quarter century–to be precise, 23 years according to Colorado State’s Dr. Phil Klotzbach, since an Atlantic hurricane season has failed to produce a single named storm from July 2 through August 16.
There have only been 3 named storms to date and not a single hurricane. That can–and, in fact, has been known to—change on a dime from this point in an Atlantic hurricane season forward–since the most active phase of the Atlantic hurricane season occurs beyond this date. Hurricane expert Michael Lowry notes 90% of the Atlantic’s tropical development has historically occurred beyond August 10.
Lowry further observes, “There’s an unwritten rule among hurricane forecasters that the active part of the hurricane season commences in late August. Dr. Bill Gray, one of the forefathers of tropical meteorology and the architect of seasonal hurricane forecasting, would ring a bell every August 20th around his research labs at Colorado State University to signal the beginning of the active part of the season.”
Colorado State’s longtime hurricane season forecaster and protege of Dr. William Gray there, Dr. Phil Klotzbach writes the following of the current “quiet” phase of the 2022 Atlantic season:
“No Atlantic named storms since Colin weakened to a tropical depression on July 2nd, and none forecast for the next 5 days per National #Hurricane Center. The last time that the Atlantic had no named storm activity between July 3 and August 16 was 1999.”
But Klotzbach also observes, The University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School researcher Brian McNoldy writes, “Assuming no named storm activity in the Atlantic through the 20th, this year’s “ACE” (i.e. Accumulated Cyclone Energy–a measure of a season’s tropical activity) will slip to just 17% of average for the date. Since 1970, only 3 years had a slower start: 1988, 1984, 1977.But McNoldy issues words of caution which come from virtually all tropical researchers about the current “quiet” trend in the tropical Atlantic, advising, “We’re just getting into the heart of the season though, so don’t let your guard down”.
So, what’s been happening to dampen tropical development in the Atlantic? You’ll find a range of comments from tropical experts. Possible explanations have included everything from Saharan dust, which can hamper tropical development, to the 3rd coolest MDR (Main Development Region–birth place of many tropical storms over the eastern Atlantic off Africa) ocean temps of the past 20 years–ocean temps just 0.15-def C (0.27-deg F) warmer than the June average over the past 20 years and to an upper air set-up over the tropical Atlantic which has favored sinking air where tropical systems often organize and develop. This tends to retard tropical development.
Dr. Michael Ventrice, meteorologist, software engineer and tropical weather observer and expert who worked recently with IBM, cites the presence to date this season of a feature known as a TUTT–for Tropical Upper Tropospheric Trough.
This is a mid-oceanic upper air trough around 39,000 ft., that’s near what meteorologists refer to as the 200 mb level–as playing a role to date this season. As Ventrice explains: TUTT’s create a hostile environment for developing tropical cyclones over the Atlantic’s Main Development (MDR) region, which is out over the tropical Atlantic east of Africa by:
1) Increasing vertical wind shear there (wind shear interferes with the organization of t-storms into tropical systems like tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes2) While advecting (moving) dry mid-latitude air (in the middle to upper troposphere) down into the Main Development Region (MDR).
The message from researchers is clear: Don’t write the 2022 Hurricane Season off yet, lots can happen.
As an example, CSU’s Klotzbach points to the last time all was quiet in the tropical Atlantic from July 2 through August 16 in 1999. The 1999 season, he notes, went on to become a “hyperactive hurricane season”–and he posts a map of storm tracks that season which I’ve included below.
What’s the outlook in the week ahead? In the immediate future, based on Monday’s latest National Hurricane Center (NHC) posts, only one disturbance is being followed. It’s in the central Atlantic NHC and is being given a 0% chance of developing in the coming days.