There have been no named hurricanes so far this summer. Here’s why

Hurricane season is beginning quieter than usual, but don’t let that fool you, weather forecasters say.

It’s rare that there aren’t any named hurricanes by August — this has only happened twice since 1960. However, weather experts predict they will come.

Dry, dusty air blowing off the coast of West Africa from the vast Sahara desert has prevented convection or atmospheric water vapor from whipping up the usual storms. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November.

This image of upper water vapor over the North Atlantic comes from the College of DuPage’s NexLab satellite on August 30. (GOES/College of DuPage)

“Although we did dodged a few bullets early on, I still expect a robust hurricane season,” said Jeff Weber, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, of Boulder, Colorado.

Usually in August, Weber says, there’s at least one major hurricane.

Climate change could be a factor, weather experts say

With August all but over, the next three available names on the 2022 tropical storm and hurricane list may not even be used this month. A tropical storm brings sustained winds of at least 40 mph. Hurricanes, on the other hand, have wind speeds of at least 119 km/h.

Weather experts say climate change is a factor.

Weber described how there has been a sustained ridge of high pressure, which he calls a “bubble on the planet” – the same one that sparked wildfires in North America last year – that now sits over Europe and Asia, causing an intense drought there. That lack of moisture could delay hurricane season, Weber said.

“That could be one of the reasons why we don’t see as much tropical development. It kind of reduces the amount of water vapor we have to work with off the west coast of Africa,” Weber said.

But increasing weather activity in the Atlantic Basin – which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico – suggests this unusual pattern is about to end.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if things pick up dramatically here in September,” says Weber.

He says the sea surface temperature is warm, which he predicts will likely fuel 10 to 14 storms and up to three major hurricanes into November.

Hurricane could develop within days

Canadian Hurricane Center meteorologist Bob Robichaud told CBC News that weather models are predicting a hurricane in the next few days.

He says climate change may play a role in reducing the number of hurricanes, but those that do form could be stronger, such as when Hurricane Dorian hit the Atlantic Ocean in Canada three years ago.

Winds carry an estimated 90 million tons of dust from the Sahara every year. This image shows dust blowing over the North Atlantic. (CIMSS Tropical Cyclones Group/University of Wisconsin-Madison)

“You can’t necessarily judge the whole season by just the first three months,” said Robichaud. “Even a year that starts off slowly can really make a dime here if everything falls into place.”

At the moment, storms named Danielle, Earl and Fiona may be developing.

That’s something NASA has been keeping a close eye on after being forced to scrub the Monday launch scheduled for Artemis I due to an engine temperature issue.

NASA has to be wary of Earth’s weather as the 32-story rocket stack is set to launch during hurricane season in Florida, the state with the highest number of tropical cyclones in the United States.

Monday’s launch was delayed; NASA announced it would try again on Saturday.

While hurricane risk peaks on September 10, some of the strongest hurricanes struck after August 15—such as Andrew (1992), Frances (2004), Ivan (2004), and Katrina (2005).

What it means for the moon rocket

Should a hurricane or tropical storm develop off the coast of Florida or the Gulf, NASA has told the media that the launch director would receive a forecast from the Spaceflight Meteorology Group or from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron that would address all possible problems monitored on the east coast.

In the event of a hurricane, prudent policies are in place to reduce weather-related risk, NASA said.

NASA's lunar rocket will be shown on August 29th.
NASA’s lunar rocket stands ready at pad 39B at sunrise before the Artemis 1 mission orbits the moon Monday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The start was postponed to Saturday. (Joel Kowsky/NASA/The Associated Press)

Launch Weather Officer Melody Lovin, senior weather officer for the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron for the Artemis mission, says each rocket has its own weather limitations.

When Hurricane Dorian struck in 2019, she said NASA had to roll back some equipment into the Vehicle Assembly Building.

“Florida weather is predictable but challenging in late August and early September. Observing the tropics is always a hot topic for the team,” said Lovin.

A storm watcher is shown at the breakwater in Herring Cove, NS as Hurricane Dorian hit in 2019. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

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