Atlantic hurricane season off to slow start, but major storms could still form, say experts

·3 min read

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Despite above-average ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic this summer, the 2022 hurricane season has gotten off to a quiet start, but bigger storms could still be on the way.

Despite projections of a very active season from Environment Canada, no major storm developed in the month of August, the third time in the modern satellite era this has happened.

In fact, August 2022 saw the least active start to the season in 30 years, said Allister Aalders, SaltWire Network’s weather specialist.

“After two very busy years, it seems a lot quieter,” Aalders said during an interview on Sept. 9. “We just usually don’t see periods where it’s so long where no storms develop.”

There are several factors for why no major storms developed in August. One being 2022 is a La Niña year, meaning trade winds are even stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia.

These trade winds, which are the continual winds that blow around the planet from east to west, tear up storm clouds before they can form.

La Nina events occur every three to five years. Typically, when La Nina patterns form there is less wind shear. However, wind shear was present for much of the summer, said Aalders.

“Wind shear tears apart tropical storms and hurricanes. It was very unfavourable this summer for any storms to develop,” he said.

Other factors that lead to conditions being unfavourable included multiple plumes of Saharan dust from the west coast of Africa drifting over the Atlantic.

The dust from the plumes dries out the atmosphere and delays the development of tropical storms and hurricanes.

This is a normal occurrence, but above-average temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean this season could still lead to severe storms, as the most active months are yet to come, said Ian Hubbard, meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, CHC, in Dartmouth, N.S.

“We’re just coming up to the peak of season,” Hubbard told SaltWire Network during an interview on Sept. 9. “We still have several weeks to go where things could get very busy."

A slow start

The average Atlantic season has about 14 named storms, and usually seven hurricanes. This year is expected to see anywhere from six to 10.

The first report from the CHC predicting this came out in May. It was updated in August, and still found a 65 per cent chance of seeing an above average number of hurricanes this year.

“Just because it’s been a slow start, doesn’t mean the whole season will be slow, as we’ve seen in the last couple days,” said Hubbard.

On Sept. 3, tropical cyclone Earl formed over the North Atlantic and began to move north towards Bermuda.

Despite the storm being hundreds of miles offshore, dangerous surf conditions and rip currents were expected to occur along the East Coast through the weekend, said information on the Weather Network website.

“One storm can make quite a difference in certain areas if it strikes them or hits them,” said Hubbard. “So far, we’ve been lucky, but the worst could be yet to come.”

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to the end of November.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian