Busy 2022 hurricane season to bring at least 3 major storms, NOAA forecasts

The agency gave the season a 25% chance of having near-normal activity and a 10% chance of being below normal.
Boats lay sunk and damaged at the Port St. Joe Marina in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday (10/10/18) after Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach.
Boats lay sunk and damaged at the Port St. Joe Marina in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday (10/10/18) after Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published May 24, 2022|Updated May 24, 2022

There was a dose of good and bad news when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its forecast for the 2022 hurricane season Tuesday morning.

The bad: A seventh straight above-average storm season is expected. The good: This summer is predicted to be quieter than both 2020 and 2021, which produced a combined 51 named storms.

Specifically, the governmental agency says there’s a 65% chance this season will produce at least 14 named storms and seven hurricanes — the 30-year average — for the seventh year in a row. They also gave the year a 25% chance of having a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.

The agency says it expects 2022 will have 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes. A major hurricane is any storm with winds of at least 110 mph.

That prediction means if the 2022 storm season falls within the worst end of the spectrum outlined in NOAA’s current forecast, it would only tie last year’s storm total of 21 — and be well below 2020′s record-breaking total of 30 named storms.

Forecasts from AccuWeather, a local researcher and Colorado State University all have projected a slightly more active 2022 season than Tuesday’s forecast from the government. The average of the three forecasts called for 20 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

While they varied on storm totals, the four forecasts agreed on why an active season is expected: The presence of La Niña in the Pacific Ocean, as well as warmer-than-usual water temperatures in the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. Governmental meteorologists pointed to tropical Atlantic trade winds being weaker than usual and an “enhanced” west African monsoon.

La Niña, which is expected this summer, creates favorable conditions for storms in the Atlantic by limiting wind shear, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said in April. It was perhaps the biggest culprit behind 2020 and 2021 producing the busiest two-year span of named storms in recorded history, he said.

“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,” said Phil Klotzbach, the lead hurricane researcher at Colorado State University. “So if it feels like it’s been busy, it has.”

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1. The year’s first named storm has formed in May each of the last five years, however, and may do so again this year. While the National Hurricane Center doesn’t anticipate tropical activity for the rest of this week, it briefly flagged an area in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday as having the potential to organize into a tropical storm.

Even if a storm were to form this month, however, it’s rare for early-season systems to cause much damage. Kottlowski said that August to October is the time of year Floridians need to brace for a major storm the most, despite the state not having a hurricane make landfall here since Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle in October 2018.

“People in Tampa Bay have had a lot of close calls but not a direct hit,” Kottlowski said. “That’s largely because of luck and, with more storms headed into the Gulf of Mexico, people there need to be ready.”

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