For a 7th Year, a Busy Hurricane Season Is Expected

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season this year, the agency announced on Tuesday. If that plays out, it would make 2022 the seventh consecutive year with an above-normal season.

Rick Spinrad, the NOAA administrator, said at a news conference on Tuesday that scientists had calculated a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.

The season — which officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, though storms can develop outside that period — is likely to include 14 to 21 named storms, a category that includes all tropical cyclones with top winds of at least 39 miles per hour. Of those, six to 10 are expected to reach hurricane strength, meaning sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour. And of that subset, three to six are expected to reach Category 3 or higher, meaning sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

NOAA’s seasonal forecast is for overall Atlantic hurricane activity and does not predict how many storms will pass near or over land.

But “it only takes one storm to damage your home, neighborhood and community,” Mr. Spinrad said. “Preparedness is key to resilience, and now is the time to get ready for the upcoming hurricane season.”

Several elements informed the forecast, among them La Niña, a broad climatic pattern that has been in place on and off since 2020 and affects many aspects of weather, including the drought in the Western United States. La Niña is expected to persist through the entire hurricane season, maintaining conditions that are conducive to hurricane formation.

Another factor is a strong West African monsoon, which supports the development of areas of low atmospheric pressure known as African easterly waves, from which intense storms can form. At the same time, the tropical Atlantic trade winds are weaker than average, which makes it easier for a developing storm to coalesce without being ripped apart by wind shear. NOAA also expects unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean this summer, and storms gain strength as they pass over warm water.

The classification system NOAA uses — which categorizes events of increasing intensity as tropical depressions, tropical storms and Category 1 through Category 5 hurricanes — is based solely on maximum sustained wind speeds and does not reflect the volume or intensity of rainfall.

But rainfall and flooding can oftentimes cause more damage than wind, and the destruction can extend far beyond the Southern coastal regions that are most commonly affected by hurricanes. Early last September, the remnants of Hurricane Ida devastated the New York metropolitan area with more than three inches of rain in one hour, even though its winds had fallen well below hurricane strength by that point.

Broadly, many of the patterns that have led to above-average hurricane seasons, and to other extreme weather, are related to climate change.

Understand the Latest News on Climate Change

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Extreme heat. Global warming has made the severe heat wave in Pakistan and India — now in its third month — hotter and much more likely to occur in the future, according to scientists. The researchers said that the chances of a heat wave in South Asia like this one have increased by at least 30 times since preindustrial times.

An investment in clean energy. The billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg announced a $242 million effort to promote clean energy in developing countries. The money will fund programs in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam.

Hurricanes and air pollution. A new study found that particulate air pollution has a significant effect on the frequency of hurricanes. Over the past four decades, the decline in air pollution in North America and Europe was associated with a rise in the number of hurricanes; increasing pollution from growing economies had the opposite effect.

Oil field sales. Many of the world’s largest energy companies are expected to sell off more than $100 billion of oil fields and other polluting assets in an effort to cut their emissions. But a new study found that these deals often involve buyers that have made few or no pledges to combat climate change.

Warming oceans. A new study found that if fossil fuel emissions continue apace, warming waters could trigger ocean species loss by the year 2300 that is on par with the five mass extinctions in Earth’s past. But reining in emissions now could drastically reduce those extinction risks, researchers found.

Climate change is producing more powerful storms, and they dump more water because of heavier rainfall and a tendency to dawdle and meander; rising seas and slower storms can make for higher and more destructive storm surges. But humans play a part in making storm damage more expensive, as well, by continuing to build in vulnerable coastal areas.

“We’re seeing such a dramatic change in the type of weather events that we’re facing as a result of climate change,” Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on Tuesday, emphasizing the need for individual preparedness.

As the season unfolds, forecasters will be watching the Loop Current, a warm area in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Its positioning varies from year to year, and smaller currents known as eddies can separate from the main current, bringing warmer-than-average water farther north in the Gulf.

This is not a factor in the seasonal forecast because the effects depend on the geography of individual storms, said Matthew Rosencrans, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s lead hurricane forecaster. If a storm’s path doesn’t take it over the current, it isn’t relevant. But storms that cross the Loop Current or an eddy can intensify rapidly and dangerously, as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did in 2005 — and the current this year looks much like it did in 2005.

“The Loop Current does look like it’s active this year; we are seeing that push of warm water up into the Gulf,” Mr. Rosencrans said. “If a storm forms and then does move over top of where the Loop Current is, it can be an explosive source of energy.”