Mixed bag for the seasonal forecasts of 2022 Atlantic tropical cyclone activity

DEC 1 2022

By ESS Team

The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season ended with near-average activity and with varied quality depending on the phenomena predicted by the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform. 

Officially starting on 1 June, the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season came to an end with near-average activity: fourteen named tropical cyclones, eight hurricanes, and two major hurricanes (category three or higher on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind scale).

The predictions for this year’s season performed by the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform were a mixed bag: the average of all estimates correctly anticipated the number of hurricanes (eight predicted, eight occurred), while it over-forecasted the total number of named storms (eighteen predicted, fourteen occurred) as well as the number of major hurricanes (4 predicted, 2 occurred). Run by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) and Colorado State University (CSU) in partnership with AXA XL, the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform is a website that gathers and displays data from nearly 30 different centres worldwide specializing in seasonal hurricane forecasting. The tool provides a seasonal prediction which comes from the compilation of other forecasts on upcoming hurricane activity from the end of March to early August.

The first named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Alex, developed five days after the start of the season, making this the first season since 2014 not to have a pre-season named storm. The Atlantic had no named storm activity between 3 July and 31 August the first time since 1941 that the region had no named storm activity between those dates.

Hurricane Fiona made landfall with an estimated central pressure of ~931 hPa in Nova Scotia as a post-tropical cyclone, the lowest pressure recorded for a landfalling storm in Canada on record. Hurricane Ian struck southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h. Ian was tied with five other hurricanes for the 5th strongest continental US hurricane landfall on record. Near the end of the hurricane season, Hurricane Nicole became the latest calendar year hurricane on record to make landfall along the east coast of Florida.

“The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season overall ended up near average. While our seasonal forecasts as well as those issued by most other groups on the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform were close to observed values for hurricane numbers, we over-predicted other tropical cyclone metrics such as named storms, major hurricanes, and Accumulated Cyclone Energy,” said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the forecast issued by CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project.

The average Atlantic hurricane season was surprising given the broadly favourable large-scale conditions during the season. Although La Niña conditions prevailed throughout, vertical wind shear in the Caribbean and parts of the tropical Atlantic were elevated in August and October, likely contributing to the lack of activity observed in these two months. Vertical wind shear was well below average in the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean in September, which favoured above-average hurricane activity during that month.

Tropical Atlantic and Caribbean ocean surface temperatures were warmer than normal during the hurricane season, providing more fuel for the development of tropical cyclones. Subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures were lower than normal during August. The increased temperature gradient between the subtropical and tropical Atlantic during that month may have favoured increased frontal activity and mid-latitude dry air intrusions into the tropics, contributing to the lack of tropical cyclone activity in August.

Even though ending as a near-average season, the total economic damage from the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season exceeded 50 billion USD and caused more than 300 deaths.

About the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform

The Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform relies on data from 28 different entities located on three different continents, including meteorological services (e.g. NOAA, UK Met Office), universities (e.g., Colorado State University, NC State University), and private weather companies (e.g., WeatherBELL, WeatherTiger). It was launched in August 2016, aiming to improve the understanding of variability amongst seasonal hurricane forecasts for both the scientific community and the general public.

The project's website was developed in collaboration with the graphic designer Iskiam Jara, and it was named “Site of the Day” by the Design Nominees website and nominated for the Lloyd’s Market Innovation Awards in 2016.

This piece has been prepared in collaboration with CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project.