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Another busy Atlantic hurricane season is likely, forecasters say

Six tropical storms or their remnants have affected Philly in the last two years. Need we mention Ida?

That's not chocolate but the waters of the Schuylkill river, swollen by the remnants of Ida in September, as seen from the Spring Garden bridge. Another busy hurricane season awaits, forecasters say.
That's not chocolate but the waters of the Schuylkill river, swollen by the remnants of Ida in September, as seen from the Spring Garden bridge. Another busy hurricane season awaits, forecasters say.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Even as the Philadelphia region and other areas are still cleaning up from Ida and last year’s brisk hurricane traffic, forecasters are warning that something close to a sequel is likely in 2022.

The outlook released Thursday by Colorado State University tropical-storm specialists called for 19 named storms, those with winds of 39 mph or better; nine hurricanes, with peak winds of at least 74 mph; and four “major” hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

On average the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, hosts 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, with three of those becoming major. In 2021, 21 named storms formed.

» READ MORE: Remember Ida?

The outlook by Philip Klotzbach and Michael M. Bell tracks closely with those issued in late March by AccuWeather Inc. and WeatherBELL Analytics, which isn’t surprising given that all rely heavily on similar methods. The National Hurricane Center will weigh in next month.

What they’re seeing

Sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Basin have been running above normal, a potential fuel source for tropical storms.

On the other side of the world, conditions in the tropical Pacific aren’t favorable for the west-to-east shearing winds that can rip apart Atlantic storms before they become dangerous.

» READ MORE: Here's how the tropical Pacific can affect the Atlantic hurricane season

AccuWeather sees steering winds over the North Atlantic favoring early-season landfalls on the U.S. coasts. Klotzbach and Bell say that the chances of U.S. landfalls are “above average.” However, while forecasters have made progress in predicting the number of storms, landfall projections remain very much a work in progress.

Climate change

Historically, lull- and active-hurricane seasons have alternated in 25- to 40-year cycles. This active cycle began in 1995, and in 2020, a record number of named storms popped up in the basin, although that likely was related in part to satellites and advances in observation technology.

Research continues into whether the basin has flipped into another mode of behavior.

Hurricane experts say the warming is affecting rainfall totals and peak winds. Matthew Rosencrans, a researcher with the government’s Climate Prediction Center, last year estimated that warming was adding 3% to rain totals, and increasing top wind speeds by 10%.

» READ MORE: The last two hurricane seasons have had significant impacts locally

Philly has been feeling the fallout of the traffic uptick. The region has been affected significantly by six tropical storms in the last two years or their remnants, four of those in 2021, a development that veteran meteorologists say might be unprecedented.

In the last two seasons, 18 tropical cyclones have landed on U.S. shores. That’s a two-year record. The two-year average in data dating to 1851 is six.

The 2022 numbers

The WeatherBELL forecast calls for 18 to 22 named storms, with six to 10 hurricanes, and two to four majors.

The AccuWeather numbers are quite similar: 16 to 20 named storms, six to eight hurricanes, and three to five majors.

Opening day

Officially, the season begins June 1, but like the growing season, things have been happening earlier, and the National Hurricane Center has considered moving the start date to May 15.

Whenever it does start, first up will be Ana, followed by Bill and Claudette.