It was only three days into the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane season when Tropical Storm Alex made its way across the Florida peninsula, dumping more than 11 inches of rain in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The storm caused significant flooding in coastal areas of South Florida and knocked out the lights of more than 3,500 residents across the two counties.
It appeared that Alex’s arrival in South Florida was an omen for what was to come; a possible seventh consecutive year of a hyperactive season. Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season would be an above average season.
But 50 days later, things have dried up a bit.
A lull in the tropics caused by a combination of African dust and a stable atmosphere over the Atlantic has led to a quiet period.
Only three storms have been named since the season began (including Alex) and the most recent system, Tropical Storm Colin, formed and dissipated within 24 hours with top speeds at a lackluster 40 mph.
None of these systems have reached hurricane status. But how does this measure up to years prior?
Compared to the previous two years, 2022 is behind on storms both in quantity and the size of storms.
By this time in 2021, five named storms had already developed. In 2020, six systems were named by this time, with one of those storms reaching hurricane status (Hurricane Hanna, a Category 1 storm with peak winds of 90 mph).
But 2020 and 2021 were two of the most active hurricane seasons ever recorded (2020 was the most active season ever with 31 named storms). Experts say that only three storms for this time of year is not completely out of the ordinary.
The most recent ten-year average is 4.1 named systems by July 20. This means that 2022 has been a slightly below-average season so far.
And it does not appear any tropical systems will develop in the Atlantic Basin for the near future. Medium to long range forecast models extend the current quiet stretch through most or all of July.
While the Atlantic is quiet now, experts warn to not let your guard down.
“July is usually not an active hurricane season month,” says Erik Salna, Associate Director of Education and Outreach at the International Hurricane Research Center. “The period from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15 is what we really have to be prepared for.”
Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, and following the progression of an average season, the Atlantic Basin ramps up during August and sharply peaks in early to mid-September.
And this has been true for past hurricane seasons.
There was another above average season in 2019, with 20 named storms, including Hurricane Dorian, an extremely powerful Category 5 hurricane with peak winds at 185 mph.
As of July 20 that year, only two storms had developed, Subtropical Storm Andrea, an off-season one-day system that never made landfall, and Hurricane Barry, a Category 1 storm that formed in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nothing too brow-raising.
Much like this year, 2019 saw an extended lull. The next storm, Chantel, would not form until Aug. 14 — but that’s when things picked up.
In a period from Aug. 14 through Oct. 31, 15 named storms developed, with four of those becoming major hurricanes (Category 3 or above).
And 2018 saw a similar pattern. Only three named storms developed prior to July 20. This period of quiet was followed by a cluster of 10 storms in September alone, averaging one storm forming every three days.
These series of rapid storm succession in the late summer are common and expected.
“So, this current quiet time is not any sign of a slow hurricane season,” says Salna. “It’s just a lull before the main show gets started, the calm before the storm.”
Florida remains vulnerable to late season storms.
Hurricane Wilma (2005) was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin. It moved across the state from West-to-East in late October and produced peak winds of 185 mph.
As we near the bulk of hurricane season, experts say the best thing to do is to be prepared. Knowing an evacuation route inland and having a hurricane survival kit are two simple steps to readiness, because things can change fast.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will update the 2022 Atlantic seasonal outlook in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.