Least active start to a hurricane season in 30 years

Since 1966 there have only been five other hurricane seasons with as little activity as this season.

what you need to know

  • Some seasons end more actively after slow starts
  • Even the least active years can still produce devastating cyclones
  • Research is ongoing to determine other factors affecting tropical seasons

Since the beginning of the modern satellite era, the years 1967, 1977, 1984, 1988, and 1992 have been the slowest starts to the Atlantic hurricane season. 2022 is now in this group as activities have been very limited so far.

In the graph below, note that the green line is where we are now and the dotted black line is the 30-year average of Atlantic tropical activity.

(Dr. Kim Wood/Mississippi State University)

The best way to compare tropical seasons is to look at something called Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE). Comparing seasons based on the number of storms is not reliable, as there can be years with numerous weak storms that have very little impact, and then there can be years with only a handful of storms, but when it’s around big storms, if they are it can have a much bigger impact.

This is where the ACE index comes into its own. It gives us a better comparison of how each season stacks up against others.

The chart below shows that the ACE Index exhibits natural fluctuations, with some years being less active and other years being much more active. Note that the active years 2004, 2005, and 2017 are different on the chart.

So what does this mean for the rest of this hurricane season? A slow start doesn’t always guarantee a slow finish as there have been a few years where activity really ramped up in the second half.

Also, keep in mind that a less active time of year doesn’t mean a major hurricane won’t impact the country. “It only takes one” is a common phrase you’ll hear us say at our Weather Center.

In the less active seasons of 1967, 1977, 1984, 1988, and 1992, there was an example of a strong hurricane in each of those seasons.

In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert was one of the strongest Category 5 hurricanes on record and made landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. In 1992, Category 5 Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida, although the season as a whole was calm.

In the chart below, the red lines show how Seasons progress when they start with less than 50% ACE up to that point. Only four seasons performed well above average.

It will be interesting to see if this can be one of those seasons that excels after a slow start. Keep in mind that our advanced satellite technology allows us to see many more storms than we could 20 years ago, making it easier to increase ACE numbers even during slower seasons.

(Dr. Kim Wood/Mississippi State University)

That being said, there are many atmospheric conditions that appear to be inhibiting tropical activity that were not well predicted prior to this season. A lot of dry air comes out of Africa.

There have also been several upper level lows in the Atlantic that have created wind shear that prevents hurricane growth. These factors can change on a weekly basis, which can dictate how the last half of the season turns out.

Although water temperatures are warm, this is a perfect example of how hurricane season isn’t just dependent on water temperatures. There are many other variables.

Some of these variables are still being explored today. There are oscillations and wave patterns circling the globe in weekly and monthly cycles that we still don’t fully understand. More research in these areas will lead us to better understand long-term tropical predictions in the future.

Our team of meteorologists dive deep into the science of weather, breaking down current weather data and information. For more weather and climate stories check out our Weather blogs section.

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