This is the first year since 2017 that a hurricane has not developed in the Atlantic by Aug. 1 – Link to La Palma and Tonga volcanic eruptions?

slow hurricane season 2022
satellite image of Hurricane Ida approaching land in the Gulf of Mexico taken by NOAA’s GOES-16 (GOES East)

Back in April 2022, scientists predicted the seventh straight above-average hurricane season due to CLIMATE CHANGE. The Colorado State outlook, headed by researcher Philip Klotzbach, called for the following:

  • 19 named storms, including tropical storms and hurricanes. The average for a season is 14.4. It’s worth noting that named storms can occur anywhere in the Atlantic basin, and the number has no bearing on how many make landfall — or where.
  • 9 hurricanes, more than the seasonal average of 7.2. Hurricanes have winds of 74 mph or greater.
  • 4 major hurricanes, or those whose winds reach Category 3 strength or greater. That’s more than the average of 3.2 major Atlantic hurricanes per season.
  • A 47 percent chance that the East Coast gets hit by a major hurricane, with a 46 percent chance for the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, Texas. That’s more than 1.5 times the average likelihood.

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In other words, leading up to this Atlantic hurricane season, numerous signs pointed toward a summer and fall bustling with storms. Forecasters said the broad weather patterns governing the oceans and atmosphere would come together to boost activity. Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Colorado State University predicted activity above to well above average.

The only thing that seems to be missing from a busy Atlantic hurricane season? The hurricanes.

Just three tropical storms have formed so far this year in the Atlantic basin. While the third named storm doesn’t normally form until Aug. 3 — meaning this year is ahead of average by that metric — the number of storms doesn’t tell the story.

All three systems have been “shorties,” brief low-end tropical storms with limited impacts. Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), a measurement of the cumulative power of all Atlantic tropical storms, is running at about a third of normal for the date as a result.

The seasonal deficit will only continue to increase unless activity begins to dramatically ramp up through August and September — the historical peak of hurricane season — when longer-tracking, stronger systems typically develop. But there is no immediate sign of that ramp-up starting.

Neither the American nor European model ensemble forecast systems — supercomputer simulations, each of more than a dozen slightly different atmospheric scenarios — show much of a signal for tropical activity through the end of the first week of August. Similarly, the National Hurricane Center has not highlighted any regions of expected five-day development.

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Same lack of typhoons in the Pacific:

What’s behind the lackluster? A mystery…

As of now, there’s no one thing to blame for the lackluster development.

Bouts of strong low-latitude wind and widespread sinking air have stood in the way of development at times, while persistent ocean-bound outbreaks of dry, dusty air blown from the Sahara Desert have helped smother blossoming thunderstorms that can sometimes turn any surviving tropical waves into organized storms.

As a result, the systems that have developed have either been tropical lows that do not strengthen at all or ones that develop so close to land that there isn’t enough time for them to strengthen. So, while the systems may be marginally impactful — Alex, the season’s first named storm, brought flooding rain to southern Florida in early June, for example — they do not contribute much to seasonal ACE.


Is this low activity normal?

But this kind of lower-than-expected activity is not unheard of so early in the hurricane season, even in years that go on to become quite active. And there are still signs that the peak season could see a number of hurricanes.

In an early June news release, leading scientists at Colorado State University continued to forecast a season of well-above-average activity. Despite a lackluster first two months of summer, the release continued to cite many seasonal factors that typically lead to strong tropical development.

First, there is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, often abbreviated as ENSO. Related to the sloshing of warm and cold water around the Pacific, the oscillation has influences in long-term atmospheric conditions worldwide. Years with a La Niña — the phase of the oscillation currently in effect, per National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — tend to see more Atlantic hurricane activity, with conditions unusually favorable for tropical systems to develop and strengthen.

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The presence of La Niña, combined with oceanic temperatures in the Atlantic that are currently warmer than average — a testament both to a warming world and to favorable wind patterns — gives forecasters confidence in an above-active hurricane season.

History also tells us to avoid placing too much stock on early-season activity.

This is the first year since 2017 that a hurricane has not developed in the Atlantic by Aug. 1. That year, an uninterrupted stretch of nine consecutive hurricanes formed from late August through mid-October, including the devastating Harvey, Irma and Maria.

In 2015, there were also no hurricanes by Aug. 1; that was the most recent year to end up with below-average Atlantic tropical activity.

What about volcanic activity?

In 2019, a study in PNAS showed how large volcanic eruptions influences hurricanes globally.

According to their findings, large tropical volcanic eruptions can affect hurricanes by shifting the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a region that circles the Earth near the Equator and greatly influences rainfall and hurricane activity.

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As the Intertropical Convergence Zone moves after a large volcanic eruption, it affects both the intensity and frequency of hurricanes, causing some regions to experience an increase in activity and other regions to experience a decrease.

For example, a large eruption in the tropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere leads to a southward shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. This results in an increase in hurricane activity between the Equator and the 10°N line, and a decrease further north.

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The zone’s southward shift has further effects in the Southern Hemisphere, causing a decrease in activity on the coasts of Australia, Indonesia, and Tanzania, while Madagascar and Mozambique experience an increase. These changes can last for up to four years following the eruption.

In other words, the Tonga eruption that occurred beginning of this year may have a strong effect on this year hurricane season (add to this last year’s La Palma eruption…). I just hope we won’t face a dramatic series of deadly hurricanes in a month or two. Be ready and get prepared for the worst! [WP, PNAS, NOAA, WP] has been banned from ad networks and is now entirely reader-supported CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MY WORK… I will send you a small gemstone if you give more than 25$… Thanks in advance!

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    • Pakistan had some Biblical flooding. Saw some video footage. Buildings were being destroyed. 10,000,000 people displaced, and 33,000,000 people affected. Most tend to hate Christians, but it is always good to pray on it. There’s animals and children in harm’s way.

  1. Hmmm. I did note the lack of hurricanes as abnormal on another post. Maybe that eruption had an effect? Hard to say. We will see in September or October. Normally, I wouldn’t be in favor of hurricanes hitting, but we could use extra moisture whether we like it or not.

    I have a storm above me now. Barometric pressure has dropped. My lower back ache says rain pending. Thunder in the distance. Humidity is 68% inside my house.

    Pipe tobacco preloaded is not crunchy on top of bowl due to humidity. Time for some Loch Ness smoke. That’s a Drucquer and Sons blend (G. L. Pease). Got Navy Cut loaded, Sun Bear loaded, and Capstan loaded. Pipe smokers know those are deeelicious smokes. Sun Bear is a limited edition, and it is becoming a favorite of mine. Aged Virginias in it.

    Aged pipe tobacco is like aged fine wine. You can age a tin, and resell for profit. Most people don’t know about that. I can’t afford to buy alot, so I keep it for special times. When you age tobacco, the flavors meld to a buttery smoothness, top to bottom. It’s very obvious. Sorry if it is boring, but to me it is good fun.

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