Will hurricane season ever be ‘normal’ again?

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Last week at the National Tropical Weather Conference, Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University presented his 2022 Tropical Storm forecast.

Accuweather had delivered theirs just a few days before. And while some headlines screamed “monster season” most went with “busy” or “above normal.” You might remember that “normal” recently increased from 12 storms to 14 and the considered average now is 14 tropical storms of which seven will become hurricanes and three of those will become major hurricanes of Category 3, 4 or 5. I made a chart of the two forecasts so far:

Both CSU and Accuweather forecast busy seasons

These forecasts really are just above average and even Accuweather’s range puts the numbers at pretty much “normal.”

The reasons for the busy season are warmer Atlantic and Gulf ocean waters which are a tropical storm’s fuel. In addition, no El Nino is forecast to form and those El Nino winds created in the Pacific can move across Central America to tear up developing storms in the Caribbean. Here’s the latest El Nino forecast and I have highlighted the June to October forecast. You can see that the red line barely makes it to the 0° line which is the “normal.” In other words, neutral conditions are expected as La Nina wanes.

El Nino Forecast

You can read Anthony’s report from the weather conference with more insight and the full report from Colorado State University.

Will a normal season ever return?

These forecasts started a conversation on my Facebook page and one simple question from a fan was this: when was the LAST time we even had a normal season? I checked the data book and the answer: not recently! In fact, you’d have to go back seven years to 2015 to find one. I put this chart together from the last 10 years:

Average seasons are hard to find when it comes to hurricanes!

Obviously 2013 to 2015 were pretty quiet years comparatively. However, the Memorial Day floods of 2015 more than made up for it.

And while the chances of a hurricane hit at any one spot are pretty low each year, 97% of seasons 1950-2020 have had at least two hurricanes. And never forget the 1983 hurricane season -- only four tropical storms of which three became hurricanes and one became major. That major storm was Alicia, which hit Galveston/Houston.

So to the original question of getting back to a “normal” season, I think we will. There will eventually be a strong El Nino to inhibit development along with strong trade winds and perhaps enough Saharan dust. But given the warm ocean waters are on a trajectory to stay that way, I doubt we’ll ever see a season of only four tropical systems again.

Never turn your back on the Gulf!

Frank

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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.