Atlantic hurricane season off to slow start. But top forecasters still expect above-normal activity

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  • An average Atlantic season spawns seven hurricanes and peaks in August, September and October.
  • The season officially began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
  • The forecast is a slight decrease from the one NOAA released in May.

Despite a slow start, the federal government continues to expect another busy Atlantic hurricane season in 2022, with six to 10 hurricanes forming, according to an updated forecast released Thursday. 

An average Atlantic season spawns seven hurricanes and peaks in August, September and October. If predictions hold true, 2022 would be a record seventh consecutive year of above-normal activity.

Overall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 14 to 20 named storms will develop. That number includes tropical storms, which have wind speeds of 39 mph or higher.

Tropical storms become hurricanes when wind speeds reach 74 mph.

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What was the original forecast?

The forecast is a slight decrease from the one NOAA released in May, when forecasters said that as many as 21 storms would form.

“While the tropics have been relatively quiet over the last month, remember that it only takes one landfalling storm to devastate a community,” NOAA’s lead hurricane outlook forecaster Matthew Rosencrans said in a press briefing Thursday.

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“This is especially critical as we head into what the team here anticipates is likely to be a busy peak of the season.”

  • Of the predicted hurricanes, three to five could be “major,” with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher.
  • A persistent La Niña pattern – the natural cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide – weak trade winds and some warmer-than-normal Atlantic water temperatures still point to a busy season, Rosencrans said.
  • The La Niña climate pattern typically increases hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

How unusual is the slow start?

The forecast includes the three tropical storms that formed in June and early July, about average for this time of year, but quieter than the past few years.

“Although it has been a relatively slow start to hurricane season, with no major storms developing in the Atlantic, this is not unusual  and we therefore cannot afford to let our guard down,” said FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, in a statement. “This is especially important as we enter peak hurricane season – the next Ida or Sandy could still be lying in wait.” 

Colorado State University, which pioneered hurricane-season forecasts, also dialed back its predictions for the season compared with what it said earlier this year. The school now predicts 18 named storms, down from 19, with eight becoming hurricanes, down from nine. Colorado State predicts four major hurricanes, which is the same as it forecast in April.

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Hurricane forecasts include storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

The season officially began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. The next storm name on the list is will be Danielle.

Contributing: The Associated Press