The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center on Tuesday forecast 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes — of Category 3 strength or greater.
The CSU forecast called for 19 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major storms.
Of course it’s impossible to know how many of those storms will make landfall along the US coast, or where the largest storms will develop.
However, during the announcement, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad recognized that the current hurricane cycle for the Atlantic is a busy one.
“If you go back two years, the 2020 hurricane season broke records across the board and it’s the most active season on record with 30 named storms,” said Spinrad.
“The 2021 hurricane season, which is the third most active year on record in terms of names of storms brought us 21 named storms with impacts, ranging from the Appalachian Mountains all the way to New England, resulting in over $78.5 billion in US damage.”
What’s driving the above-average seasons
There are several contributing factors that play into a “busy” hurricane season. “We are in an active period,” said Spinrad. “There are certain ingredients that drive the intensity and the frequency of hurricanes.”
La Niña presents favorable conditions for hurricanes — in contrast to that of El Niño.
Hurricane seasons under El Niño conditions are known for upper-level wind patterns across the Caribbean that tear hurricanes apart as they try to form, making the seasons less active.
Another reason for the above-normal forecast is the location of what’s called the “Gulf Loop Current.” This current is “a 600-foot-deep river of hot Caribbean water that travels between Cancun, Mexico and western Cuba into the Gulf,” said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.
This loop current is flowing farther north now, forcing warm water at deeper levels of the ocean to travel closer to the coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico. “The warm water is simply too deep and the hurricane has an unlimited supply of hot water for intensification,” said Myers.
Forecasters are comparing the position of the loop current with where it was placed in the record-breaking 2005 season — when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita both made landfall.
“Yes, the loop current does look like 2005,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season outlook forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “But it depends if a storm actually moves over that loop current and forecasting the specific track of storms is not something we can do beyond a week time frame,” Rosencrans added.
Back-to-back record-breaking years
During the 2021 hurricane season, eight storms made landfall along the US Gulf Coast and in 2020 six made landfall along the Gulf.
“Hurricane Ida spanned nine states, demonstrating that anyone can be in the direct path of a hurricane and in danger from the remnants of a storm system,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “It’s important for everyone to understand their risk.”