Ian and Fiona dashed expectations for a calm storm season. What comes next?

The Atlantic hurricane season got off to a slow start until three storms erupted onto the scene in September, and meteorologists warn that the same conditions that caused Ian to swiftly develop might lead to additional hurricanes in the following weeks.

Ian and Fiona dashed expectations for a calm storm season. What comes next?
Photo by Espen Bierud on Unsplash

Ian made landfall in Florida this week, following an extraordinarily quiet summer in which no named tropical storms or hurricanes formed in the Atlantic Ocean from July 3 to August 30. According to analysts, the last time this happened was in 1941.

Then, in September, "all of a sudden, things began popping," according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Bob Smerbeck.

Tropical cyclone On September 1, Danielle was announced, followed by Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, and Ian.

Hurricanes Ian and Fiona both became Category 4 hurricanes.

And, in the next weeks, "at least one real possibility for tropical development," according to Smerbeck.

The hurricane season has begun quietly.

The 2022 hurricane season started off to a sluggish start, but by August, meteorologists cautioned that major storms may still be on the way, even though none had yet been named.

"The initial portion of the season might have been more active than it was," Susan Buchanan, Director of Public Affairs for the National Weather Service, told USA TODAY in a statement.

Lesser weather systems formed off Africa's west coast earlier this summer, and "unfavorable circumstances" existed for them to develop into tropical storms in the western Atlantic, according to Smerbeck.

According to the Weather Service, tropical storm activity typically increases during the "peak" season from late August to October. We've already had nine named storms.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the typical Atlantic hurricane season contains 14 named storms, with three of them being major hurricanes (Categories 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

The destruction caused by big storms Ian and Fiona in Florida, the Carolinas, and Puerto Rico is more than enough to describe the 2022 hurricane season as "terrible," according to Buchanan.

What occurred in previous "quiet" seasons?

There are no guarantees that the peaceful hurricane season of this summer will repeat or that the season will remain active.

According to Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert at Colorado State University, we've seen two tranquil Augusts with no named storms since 1950: 1961 and 1997.

However, 1961 had an unusually busy September, resulting in a hyperactive season. In contrast, 1997 was a strong El Nio year with a below-average season.

According to Smerbeck, a phenomenon known as wind shear played a significant part in this hurricane season's substantial increase beginning in September.

Tropical storms, he continued, must develop upwards in order to grow in power, much like a brick tower. When there is less wind shear to knock over the tower, a tropical storm or hurricane can get stronger and stronger, as was the case with Ian, according to Smerbeck.

"It's as if you lifted the lid off the atmosphere in September," Smerbeck observed.

What do October weather predictions indicate?

Meteorologists at AccuWeather and the National Weather Service are keeping an eye on a disturbance in the eastern Atlantic south of the Cabo Verde Islands, which might develop into a tropical storm by late next week.

"A tropical wave south of the Cabo Verde Islands is now very likely to develop into an organized tropical cyclone," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.

If wind shear continues low, the disturbance might develop into a tropical storm or worse, according to Smerbeck.

"That one has the potential to be better structured," he says. Meteorologists will know more in the following days, according to Smerbeck. Smerbeck said he'll keep a watch on the disturbance, which he believes is "destined more to the northwest."

Julia will be the name of the next named Atlantic storm. Karl and Lisa are the names that follow.

Once a storm achieves sustained winds of 39 mph, it is given a name. When winds hit 74 mph, a storm becomes a hurricane.

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