The Atlantic Ocean’s active stretch of above-normal hurricane seasons appears poised to continue.
A hurricane forecast released Thursday by Colorado State University projects the Atlantic will churn out 19 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major storms this year. The 30-year average, by comparison, is 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major storms.
The forecast is slightly more active than that of AccuWeather, which projected last week that this summer and fall will produce six to eight hurricanes.
Colorado State’s forecast was presented by researcher Phil Klotzbach at the 2022 Hurricane Conference. Klotzbach laid out the reasons for the prediction of an active season: There is just a 10 percent chance of El Niño developing and water in the subtropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea is already warmer than usual.
El Niño is a Pacific phenomenon that impacts weather throughout the globe. During hurricane season, its presence creates strong wind shear over the tropical Atlantic that disrupts storm formation. Without it, developing storms face little resistance.
“If you look at National Hurricane Center discussions on a storm, they’re always talking about ‘shear, shear, shear,’” Klotzbach said. “That’s because it is a critical factor impacting hurricanes. When you have too much shear it tears apart the hurricane, tilts the circulation and you don’t get the wind increase needed to produce a strong hurricane.”
El Niño’s opposing weather pattern, La Niña, is present now and produces favorable conditions for storms. It has been around more often in the past seven years, Klotzbach said, which is a major factor in why the Atlantic has been active each summer.
“This continuous La Niña-like signal we’ve seen for the last several years looks like it’s probably going to persist through this year’s hurricane season,” Klotzbach said. “So if it feels like it’s been busy, it has.”
A report released by the university says it expects there to be 90 days with an active tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean this year.
Klotzbach says the U.S. mainland has a 71 percent chance of being struck by a major hurricane this year, while the east coast, which includes Tampa Bay and the Florida Panhandle by the university’s classification, has a 47 percent chance. The other section, from the Florida-Alabama border through Texas, has a 46 percent chance.
In an average year, Klotzbach says, these regions would have a 30 and 31 percent chance of a direct strike from a single Category 3 hurricane or higher.
Colorado State is often heralded as one of two premier hurricane forecasts released annually, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is expected to release its forecast later this month. The university will release an updated forecast on June 2 at the beginning of hurricane season.