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First Warning Weather: Hurricane outbreak possible in two weeks

AUSTIN (KXAN) — While the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is off to a slower start than recent years, several variables are coming together for a rapid increase in tropical activity in mid-August.

June and July are typically quieter months in the Atlantic basin, with limited tropical storm and hurricane activity. Eighty-five percent of major hurricanes develop after Aug. 20, according to Phil Klotzbach, who works at Colorado State University and develops the Atlantic hurricane forecasts between August and October, typically the peak times for development.

By early August 2020, the Atlantic hurricane season already spawned seven tropical storms and two hurricanes. By early August 2021, we had already tallied four tropical storms and one hurricane.

This Atlantic hurricane season has only yielded three tropical storms with relatively minor impacts.

Image showing when most tropical systems form in hurricane season
Tropical cyclone climatology, with most activity coming after Aug. 1 (Natl. Hurricane Center)

Though this seems like a quiet season to date, it is directly in-line with 30-year averages from the National Hurricane Center below, with just three named storms typical through Aug. 3.

NumberNamed systemsHurricanesMajor Hurricanes
1Jun 20Aug 11Sep 1
2Jul 17Aug 26Sep 19
3Aug 3Sep 7Oct 28
4Aug 15Sep 16
5Aug 22Sep 28
6Aug 29Oct 15
7Sep 3Nov 15
8Sep 9
9Sep 16
10Sep 22
11Oct 2
12Oct 11
13Oct 25
14Nov 19
Progress of the average Atlantic season (1991-2020). Date upon which the following number of events would normally have occurred. (Natl. Hurricane Center)

Atlantic hurricane season ramps up beginning in August due to a variety of factors including warmer ocean waters, less Saharan dust in the atmosphere, and more disturbances marching across the ocean from Africa which act as “seedlings” for tropical storms.

We are tracking an expected increase in disturbances rolling off the coast of Africa during the middle of August. These tropical waves can act as embryos for tropical storm development as they trek westward across the Atlantic. As Joe Bastardi of Weatherbell.com writes, “the wave train is going to start running,” with wetter than normal weather expected across the interior of Africa where these seedlings are born.

Forecast rainfall anomalies over Africa August 10-17
Forecast rainfall anomalies over Africa August 10-17, showing higher than normal rainfall across interior regions of northern Africa (Weatherbell.com)

The final variable expected to lead to an increase in tropical activity in mid-August is the Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO. We can think of the MJO as a large-scale area of rising or sinking air which can either enhance or suppress storm development.

As a storm-supporting area of rising motion moves over the Atlantic mid to late-August, large-scale rising motion will replace large-scale sinking, making conditions more favorable overall for tropical development. A setup like this led to a hurricane outbreak at the end of August 2020.

Image showing low odds of tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic before Aug. 12. Formation would likely come after that time.
Probability of tropical cyclone formation through Aug. 12 remains low. The ramp-up in activity would likely come after that time. (ECMWF model)

While all of these variables will lead to an increase in tropical activity in the Atlantic, it will not come immediately. Long-range forecast models are suggesting the current lull in activity lasts through Aug. 12, with an increase coming between Aug. 12-20.

While we expect a sharp uptick in hurricane activity, it is impossible to forecast where the storms may go until they form. Forecasters at CSU diagnose a higher than normal 59% chance of a Texas hurricane strike this year (average: 36%), and a 28% chance of a major hurricane strike (average: 16%).


Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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