AUSTIN (KXAN) — Despite a normal start to the Atlantic hurricane season, things have noticeably slowed down, and by that we mean it’s been suspiciously quiet for over a month in what is typically a very active period.

Looking back

We kicked off the Atlantic season with Tropical Storm Alex forming on June 5, bringing significant rainfall to Cuba and south Florida. Alex was followed by Tropical Storm Bonnie, which made landfall in Central America with 50 mph winds, only to then survive the trek over land and further strengthen in the Pacific basin. The most recent named storm of the season was Tropical Storm Colin, forming July 2 off the coast of South Carolina, then dissipating nine hours later over North Carolina.

Only three named storms have formed in the Atlantic basin this year, as of Aug. 30, 2022.
Only three named storms have formed in the Atlantic basin this year, as of Aug. 30, 2022.

Fast forward eight-plus weeks later, here we are on the last day of August with no named storm since Colin.

Yes, there’ve been a couple disturbances kicked off the coast of Africa that had a chance of developing into something stronger, and as of this week, there is a low pressure a few hundred miles off the coast of the Lesser Antilles with a high chance of becoming a tropical depression (or something stronger). But when the clock strikes midnight tonight, it’ll be official — August 2022 will go into the record books without a single named storm.

IN-DEPTH: According to meteorologists at Yale Climate Connections, so far there is season, the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index is just 11% of average for the date. The ACE index is a measure of a storm’s energy, calculated by recording a storm’s maximum sustained wind every six hours over the span of its lifetime.

Figure: Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index for the Atlantic basin from 1950-2020. Courtesy: Environmental Protection Agency
Figure: Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index for the Atlantic basin from 1950-2020. Courtesy: Environmental Protection Agency

Has this happened before?

Yes — twice, in fact. On record, there were no tropical storms or hurricanes in the month of August in 1961 (pre-satellite era) and 1997.

What’s interesting about 1961 is despite a lull in activity in August, the season was very active on the back half. Three Category 4 storms and two Category 5 storms developed in the following September and October.

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What’s unique about August 2022?

August 2022 will be the third August on record with no named tropical storm/hurricane, but there’s also a “first” tucked in there. This is the first time on record (albeit, a short record) with an August in a La Niña year without any named storm.

IN-DEPTH: Tropical activity is typically enhanced in La Niña years due to weaker wind shear and trade winds. Read more about it here.

Why so quiet?

Hurricane forecasting is a beast in itself and trying to pinpoint why (or why not) storms are developing involves many factors. Dr. Phillip Klotzbach, researcher with the Colorado State University Weather and Climate Research team, noted one reason for the recent quiet stretch could be higher than normal wind shear (winds turning at the different levels of the atmosphere, prohibitor of storm development) for a La Niña year.

Another observation was an increase in Saharan dust this season, another ingredient that works against storm development.

So we’re good, right?

Let’s not put our guards down just yet. Hurricane season typically peaks early September, and with an average end date of Nov. 30, we still have an entire half season to go.

The North Atlantic hurricane season typically peaks the second week of September.
The North Atlantic hurricane season typically peaks the second week of September.

This week, the Atlantic showed significant signs of “reawakening” with multiple tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa moving into more conducive environments.

Tropical satellite, current areas to watch and formation chances as of Wednesday morning
Tropical satellite, current areas to watch and formation chances as of Wednesday morning

All that to say, stay with the KXAN First Warning Weather team, led by our in-house hurricane expert Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans, on what is likely to be a more active second half of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.