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National Hurricane Center staffs up early

A tropical wave is moving west at about 20 mph in the southern Caribbean basin. The storm is not a threat to Florida.
National Hurricane Center
A tropical wave is moving west at about 20 mph in the southern Caribbean basin, but the storm is not a threat to Florida

Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center are now issuing daily reports about tropical activity in the Atlantic Ocean, despite it being two weeks prior to the official start of tropical season on June 1.

The full mobilization of the NHC staff early is a test of sorts, because in each of the past seven years named storms have formed in May. Last year, it was Anna. In 2020, there were two: Arthur and Bertha.

The agency is considering whether it should move the official start date of the Atlantic hurricane season forward by two weeks, which would make staffing in May the norm.

The first tropical wave that formed more than a week ago off Africa’s west coast has given way to a tropical wave in the southeast Caribbean. The hurricane center said the wave is moving west at about 20 mph and that “scattered moderate isolated strong convection is noted.”

AccuWeather forecasters predicted in late March that there is a high chance for a preseason storm to develop -- and just like last year it will portend another unusually active tropical season.

AccuWeather’s team of tropical weather forecasters, which is led by hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski, is once again predicting an above-normal season in terms of tropical activity in the Atlantic, as well as a higher-than-normal chance that a major hurricane could make landfall in the mainland United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Kottlowski’s team is forecasting 16 to 20 named storms, which is more than the average of 14, and six-to-eight hurricanes with about half of those predicted to be major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.

Last year, the 21 named storms included seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Eight of those storms made a direct impact on the U.S. Four to six direct impacts are predicted for 2022.

The names for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season are Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Martin, Nicole, Owen, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, and Walter.

The current forecast from the noted hurricane researchers at Colorado State University predicts five more hurricanes this year than in an average season. The team expects four will become major hurricanes – the most damaging kind – because of sustained winds in excess of 110 miles per hour.

Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., said three-to-five hurricanes will reach “major” status with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour. AccuWeather’s overall forecast is six-to-eight hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph out of 16-20 tropical storms this year. Tropical storms have winds of at least 39 mph.

Kottlowski said warmer oceans, which fuel storms, and the lack of the El Nino weather pattern with its high winds that tend to stunt hurricane development, is why AccuWeather's forecast is what it is.

"Unfortunately, we don't see the water temperatures cooling any time soon," Kottlowski told Reuters. “The overall pattern looks pretty similar to last year."

Should a tropical system threaten Southwest Florida, read WGCU.org and listen to WGCU FM. The public media station is a provider of the Florida Emergency Broadcast System, and will tell you everything you’ll need to know.

For now, the Atlantic hurricane season still officially begins on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. Sign up for WGCU's monthly environmental newsletter, the Green Flash, today.