We are in the middle of hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico yesterday as a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 MPH and over two feet of rainfall in some locations. However, other than Fiona, the tropics are relatively calm over the Atlantic. Does this hurricane season feel calm to you? Let’s dive into the numbers and see where the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is matching up to normal.

What is an average hurricane season?

First, it is important to keep in mind that the Atlantic hurricane season stretches from June 1st to November 30th. There is still a long way to go before the threat of a landfalling hurricane is over. In fact, we just past the peak of tropical activity in the Atlantic on September 10th, so there is still ample opportunity for tropical cyclones.

Atlantic Peak Of Season
Average Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm activity based on data from 1944 to 2020.

An average Atlantic hurricane season based on the last 30 years has a total of 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5). The first named storm will typically occur in mid to late June and the first hurricane typically forms in mid to late August.

At this point in time on September 19th, there should have been approximately 9 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.

Where does the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season stand as of now?

There have been 6 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and 0 major hurricanes, as of today. Therefore, it is safe to say that the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is currently running below average.

Now, this statistic will probably change as Hurricane Fiona is projected to become a major hurricane in the next 48 hours.

Fiona is not currently forecasted to be a threat to the mainland United States, but the storm has devastated parts of Puerto Rico and will affect the Turks and Bahamian islands. Additionally, the storm is forecast to have a major impact on the island of Bermuda

cone graphic
Forecasted track of Hurricane Fiona from the National Hurricane Center issued at 11 AM on September 19th, 2022.

Why has the 2022 hurricane season been below average and where will it go from here?

Colorado State University forecasted a 2022 hurricane season with 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. You now know that the 2022 season is running below average, but why is that the case?

Tropical systems require two main ingredients: warm ocean waters and lack of wind shear. More specifically, tropical cyclones become more likely when the ocean temperature increases above 79 degrees Fahrenheit. As you can see in the map below, the water temperature across the tropical Atlantic is in the mid 80s which is sufficient for tropical cyclone development.

Ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico at 2 PM on September 19th, 2022.

Unlike severe thunderstorms over the midlatitudes, tropical cyclones require minimal wind shear to develop. Wind shear is a change of wind speed and direction with height and it is often the cause for the rotation that leads to tornadoes during the spring and summer months.

However, wind shear is detrimental to the development of tropical cyclones. The wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico has been above average during the hurricane season of 2022 and that is the main reason for the below average hurricane season so far.

Where does the season go from here? Well, it is a safe bet that there will be at least one major hurricane as Fiona will likely achieve that in the next 48 hours. However, as of right now, confidence is low that the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season will achieve the above average numbers forecasted by Colorado State University.

There will absolutely be more tropical systems in the Atlantic, but the tropics would have to trend above average for the rest of the season to achieve an average hurricane season.