With two months of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season already over with, it might seem like activity in the tropics has been pretty quiet. But is it unusual?
By this time in the year, there are typically about four named storms, according to the National Hurricane Center. So far, there have been only three named storms (Alex, Bonnie and Colin), so activity is only slightly below average. More on that below.
Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans with KXAN News in Austin says there are a variety of reasons why the past two months have been a bit sluggish.
Here’s what’s causing slower activity in the tropics:
- The high pressure system normally found over Bermuda this time of year is farther north. This clockwise circulation, near the Azores west of Europe, is dragging dry air down from Europe. Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli of WFLA in Tampa says this area is experiencing multiple heat waves and is in the midst of its worst drought in centuries — conditions which create very dry air that travels over the ocean and inhibits tropical formation.
- Saharan dust. According to Yeomans, some dust is still present in the main development region of the tropics. While there’s less than there was a month ago, the dry and windy air it causes is also inhibiting storm formation.
- High winds across the Atlantic basin.
Despite these factors, Yeomans says storm activity is expected to ratchet up in the coming weeks.
“Over the next 1 to 2 weeks, we expect the dust and wind shear over the Atlantic to lessen/lighten and expect more rising air to develop in that area (instead of sinking),” said Yeomans. “All of these should lead to an uptick in activity.”
He notes, however, that while it’s been quiet, the season isn’t all that unique, adding that most Atlantic tropical storm/hurricane activity usually happens after August 20. The peak of the season comes around September 10.
There’s another reason why this season may seem slower — recent hurricane seasons have been so much more active than average. WFLA reported that by August 1, 2021, there had already been five named storms. In 2020, there were eight between May and July. So while this season may be a little lightweight so far, it’s too soon to tell if it’ll ultimately be considered “slow.”
But could this slightly slow start to the hurricane season impact severity? Yeomans answered simply: “There’s no correlation between a slower start of hurricane season and how the rest of it plays out.”
The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season ends Nov. 30.
Tropical systems explained
While it may be confusing to understand the differences between types of tropical weather events, Yeomans broke down how they’re classified:
- Tropical depression: Weaker systems with winds of 38 miles per hour or less
- Tropical storm: Winds reach 39 mph or higher, at which point the storm is officially named
- Hurricane: Winds reach 74 mph or higher. Hurricanes keep the same names they earned when they reached “tropical storm” status
“Basically, if a tropical depression forms but then falls apart, it never gets a name,” said Yeomans. “If something reaches tropical storm strength or stronger, it becomes a ‘named storm.'”