With the 2022 North Atlantic Hurricane season in our rearview mirror, let’s take a moment to reflect on the season, and how well it performed against the predictions.
The first half of the 2022 Atlantic season was one of the quietest on record with only 3 named systems: Tropical Storm Alex (June 5th), Tropical Storm Bonnie (July 1st), and Tropical Storm Colin (July 1st). After that, the next system would not develop until early September with Hurricane Danielle (September 1st) ending an almost record breaking 60 day period of no named tropical systems. The Saharan Air Layer became the biggest factor in hindering the development of systems with a blanket of dusty dry air over much of the North Atlantic. When you combine that with high wind shear and slightly cooler than normal Sea Surface Temperatures it becomes nearly impossible for tropical cyclones to form.
In total the 2022 season had 14 named systems with only 8 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.
The Atlantic 2022 Hurricane Season named storm tracks (Source: Wikimedia)
Despite its lackluster appearance, the 2022 season was not devoid of memorable storms with two Major Hurricanes.
Category 4 Hurricane Fiona developed in the central tropical Atlantic in mid-September and impacted the Great Antilles through Bermuda up to Nova Scotia as an Extra-Tropical Cyclone. Fiona became the most expensive and most intense tropical or post-tropical system to hit Canada.
20th September Image of Hurricane Fiona (Source: NOAA)
Later in September, Category 4 Hurricane Ian developed in the central tropical Atlantic and impacted Cuba, Southwest Florida, and South Carolina. Prior to landfall on Cayo Costa Island, the system began to slow down, maximizing the conditions across Southwest Florida where historic damage from wind and storm surge occurred with more than $50 billion in damages.
28th September Image of Hurricane Ian (Source: NOAA)
Due to the fact that the Atlantic Tropical Cyclone names repeat themselves, it sometimes becomes necessary to retire certain names. This process is done when a storm is destructive or deadly enough to have a lasting impact on a community deeming further use of the name to be insensitive. Based on previous storms that have been retired, both Fiona and Ian seem to fit in that category and will likely be retired.
Predictions vs Outcome
Forecasters and models were all in agreement before the start of the season that the 2022 season was expected to extend the above-average season streak from 6 to 7. The most widely used forecasting tools for predicting hurricane seasons- ENSO, ACE, and Analog years- all pointed to an above average season.
While technically speaking 2022 does continue the active hurricane season season streak in terms of the number of storms, it looks dwarf compared to the previous 6 years, with only 14 named storms. For comparison, the memorable 2020 season had 30 named storms!
When compared to the Colorado State University predicted Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) of 160 on its first season forecast on April 7th, the 2022 season under performed with an ACE of only 95. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) classifies an above average Season as ACE >126. With an ACE of only 95, 2022 became the first season since 2015 that was not above average.
Colorado State University Predicted vs Observed Comparison (Source: CSU)
After reflecting on the season that didn’t quite measure up to its expectations, we are reminded that seasonal forecasts will not always capture certain factors that can impact a season. This season was one where factors that inhibit tropical development were not captured, but there can be seasons where you have the reverse. Due to this uncertainty, it is important that we have trained Marine Forecasters and Marine Routers who are continuously monitoring the tropics and the impacts it has on vessels in the North Atlantic during Hurricane Season.
Stay connected and safe.