These are the times that try meteorologists' souls…..not really, but hurricane season started on June 1st and so this is the time we talk about what the experts have predicted for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.
Who are the experts? Willard Scott? The old lady down the street with the bad knee that aches when a storm is coming?
The “official” predictions are a composite from a number of national meteorological services, scientific experts, and noted hurricane analysts. The most credible predictions come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, otherwise known as NOAA (thank you, tax dollars at work), the United Kingdom’s Met Office, and academic observers like the weather watchers at Colorado State University.
Before we look at what’s being projected, what does an average hurricane season look like? In the thirty years from 1991 through 2020, the average hurricane season in the Atlantic had 14 tropical storms (these are the “named” storms that include both tropical storms and hurricanes), seven hurricanes, and three “major” hurricanes.
For a long time, after the hugely damaging hurricane stretch of the early 2000s, things seemed to be pretty quiet year after year. Maybe we got lulled to sleep a little bit. The past two years have woken us back up. In 2021, the average prediction was for a more active season than normal - 16 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 big ones. Warmer than normal sea temperatures were the primary reason for the active prediction. They got that and more, as 2021 became the second consecutive season (and only the third on record) where they actually maxed out the 21 names they had selected for naming storms. 2021 was also the sixth consecutive year where the hurricane season was busier than normal.
So how are things looking for 2022? With COVID, inflation, and wars around the world, is the 2022 hurricane season just going to pile on? Or will it give us a break?
The Prediction For 2022: More Of The Same
2021 was historic in that not only was it busier than normal, but a lot of the storm activity also formed earlier in the season (the three named storms in June tied the record). There’s no way to predict if exactly that kind of thing will happen, but the predictions are for yet another busier-than-normal hurricane season.
The first predictions for the season were typically made very early on in December. In December 2021, Colorado State issued the prediction of the season for a slightly above-average 2022 season with only 13-16 named storms, 6-8 hurricanes, and 2 or 3 major ones (remember, the averages are 14, 7, and 3). But the follow-up predictions in April and May revised those numbers upwards. Now, the consensus is for predicting another busy hurricane season with 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.
Why Another Busy Season?
The two big culprits you look for that lead to a storm-filled season are the ocean temperatures and whether an El Nino weather system exists or not.
Warmer ocean temperatures make for more and bigger storms - warm water is the essential fuel a storm needs to form and, importantly, to grow. With climate change (whether you believe that or not) that situation isn’t getting better any time soon.
The El Nino situation is a little more complicated as an El Nino system in the Pacific will actually reduce storms, not increase them. How does this work? There are people on your local news who go to school for years to study this stuff, but we can take a crack at a simple explanation.
El Nino is a type of weather pattern that forms in the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic. How does something in the Pacific affect what happens on the other side of the world? It gets a bit complicated (as I said, people study this stuff for years) but when El Nino forms in the Pacific, it causes “trough” patterns of air to form over the Caribbean and in the western tropical area of the Atlantic Ocean. With this, you get two sets of strong winds that form as a result - an area of strong westerly wind in the upper atmosphere and an area of strong easterly wind in the lower atmosphere. The presence of these two wind streams moving opposite to each other means there’s a lot of vertical wind shear (wind changing direction and moving in a vertical direction), and wind shear is the enemy of storm formation because storms can’t form if the winds are constantly changing directions. There are a couple of other factors at play as well, but that’s the basic explanation. If you don't have a strong El Nino system in the Pacific, there won't be as much to stop hurricanes from forming in the Atlantic - and that's exactly what analysts think is going to be the case.
We’re likely in for a lot of storms this summer and fall because climate change has caused the oceans to get warmer and because we are, once again, not going to have a strong El Nino system to tamp them down.
For Those In The Path, What Should You Do?
Not everyone in the sphere of this blog has to worry about hurricanes. Those of you in, say, Oklahoma and the Midwest, are worried about tornados, not hurricanes. Yet plenty of you are in the path of future hurricanes, which raises the obvious and logical question - what should you do to prep for a busy hurricane season?
The ones who have the most to worry about are the professionals who, in some way or another, have to deal with stored fuel. Since hurricane season has only just started, there’s a temptation to put things off since the danger isn’t apparent. But this is not something you want to do.
In light of the strong possibility of a busy storm season in the coming months, our best advice is…
#1 - Get Things Checked Early
Checking the condition of the fuel you’ll be relying on is essential. Do it as early as possible because you don’t want to wait to be doing that a couple of days before a hurricane hits - there won’t be enough time to fix any problems. Sample your fuel and get a good view as to its condition. If you don’t know how to do that, call someone who does.
#2 - Look For Potential Problem-Causing Things - Water and Microbes
This is a roundabout way of saying when you check your fuel sample, you need to look for certain things. Is there significant water present in the tank? If there is, then you’ll probably get microbial growth that may compromise the running of your emergency systems when you need them most. If the fuel is cloudy or excessively hazy, you’ve likely got both of those things as well.
#3 - Clean Up Any Problems Found While You’ve Still Got Time
What you’ll need to do next depends on what you find. Microbial problems are the #1 cause of systems failing in an emergency. Microbial problems are also only solvable by certain methods - applying biocide to kill the microbes. If you find water, you’ll want to get that removed.
If you have no idea how to do any of this, there are a number of good service partners who can help you with that. But if you know you’re going to be relying on this fuel when a hurricane strikes, you cannot afford to ignore this.
This post was published on July 29, 2022 and was updated on July 29, 2022.