It’s been a quiet hurricane season... so far

Hurricane Laura in 2020
Hurricane Laura in 2020(NOAA)
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 4:19 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2022 at 4:20 PM EDT
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(WHSV) - The 2022 Hurricane Season has been very quiet, at least to this point. So far we’ve only had three named storms. The last named storm we did have was Tropical Storm Colin, all the way back on July 3rd!

So far, there have been no hurricanes this season. The strongest tropical system we’ve had so far was Tropical Storm Alex back in early June which at one point had maximum winds of 70 mph, just west of Bermuda. That storm technically did not get to tropical storm status until it had passed Florida.

Saharan dust is the culprit for a quiet season so far. In the summer, the Sahara Desert in Africa gets very hot and dry. With temperatures being so hot and the air being so dry, this influences rapid rising motion in the atmosphere over the desert. The trade winds then push the dust that rises in a westerly direction, resulting in a layer of dust that moves across the Atlantic Ocean. Saharan Dust reaches as far as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

This pattern happens from about mid-June to mid-August but when the Sahara gets above-average rainfall, it results in less dust that travels. When that dust moves over the ocean, it blocks some sunlight, resulting in cooler water temperatures across the main development region of hurricanes. Remember, cooler water results in less energy for hurricanes and when Saharan dust is present, it can keep water temperatures down to 1-2 degrees below average. This inhibits the development of tropical systems.

However, we are getting closer to the end of August, a time where Saharan dust is no longer affecting the tropics. With the peak of the hurricane season also approaching (September 10th), things can unravel in a jiffy.

Despite the low activity, NOAA is still expecting an above-average season for tropical systems. We are likely going to remain in a La Niña for the rest of 2022, which ironically favors hurricane development.

During a La Niña, water temperatures are typically a little cooler but wind shear is not as high. Higher wind shear tears up or limits the development of hurricanes, meaning the atmosphere is still very favorable for things to pick back up.

We have seen activity pick up some over the last week or so. Potential Tropical Cyclone Four formed last week but did not get organized enough to become our next named storm before hitting land.

There are two disturbances of interest right now. One is just off the coast of Africa and another is in the Eastern Caribbean Sea. Both have a low chance of developing into a tropical system as the disturbance in Africa only has a 30 percent chance of developing in the next 5 days with the one in the Caribbean only having a 20 percent chance.

If a storm does not form for the rest of August, which is likely, it will be the first time since 1997 that no tropical system formed in August. This is also the slowest start to a season since 2014 and the first year no hurricanes formed before September 2013.

Despite the lack of activity, that doesn’t mean the season will be quiet. It can unravel quickly. It’s also important to remember that the number of named storms in a given hurricane season doesn’t matter that much. It takes one big storm to significantly impact a hurricane season and cause widespread destruction in a given area. The hurricane also doesn’t have to be a Category 5 to create a significant threat to life and property.