- A gulf disturbance moved ashore Sunday evening.
- There are no other areas where development looks likely until the end of May.
- At least one storm has formed before June 1 in each of the past seven hurricane seasons.
- Such pre-season activity has little bearing on the outcome of the hurricane season.
The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is unlikely to start early for the first time in eight years after a small disturbance from the Gulf of Mexico moved inland on Sunday evening before it could grow.
This small area of low pressure soared over the central Gulf of Mexico on Sunday and prompted the National Hurricane Center to highlight its first surveyed sector of the 2022 season Sunday afternoon.
Dubbed Invest 90L — a term used by meteorologists for a monitored tropical disturbance — this low moved quickly onshore near the Alabama-Florida border late Sunday evening.
Despite its small size, the disturbance produced multiple wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph along the northern Gulf Coast. A wind sensor on the roof of a fire station measured a 59 mph gust in Pensacola Beach, Florida.
There are no other areas in the Atlantic Basin of potential tropical development that the NHC is monitoring.
If this holds through the end of the month, it would end a streak of seven consecutive Atlantic hurricane seasons that produced at least one named storm before the season “officially” began on June 1.
Last May, Tropical Storm Ana formed east of Bermuda. In May 2020, the Carolinas were drenched by a pair of tropical storms, Arthur and Bertha.
It hasn’t been just the month of May in recent years. Five years ago, Tropical Storm Arlene formed over the central Atlantic Ocean just days after Easter in April 2017, one of only three April Atlantic storms recorded.
In 2016, Tropical Storm Bonnie soaked the Carolinas coast in late May 2016. But it was preceded by Eastern Atlantic Hurricane Alex, only January’s second known hurricane in the Atlantic. Alex eventually made landfall in the Azores as a tropical storm.
As you can see from the track map below, not all of these recent early storms stayed away from land.
Pre-season storms cannot predict the season
Officially, Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. This period was chosen to encompass 97% of all tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
You can see in the graph below that a small number of tropical storms, and even hurricanes, occurred in May and December.
So what does it mean if the 2022 hurricane season doesn’t bring a storm until June 1?
To answer this, we looked at all hurricane seasons in the satellite age – from 1966 to 2021 – analyzing whether or not they produced at least one storm before June 1.
As expected, the 17 seasons with at least one named storm before June 1 ended up with an average of three to four more storms for the season than the 38 seasons without a preseason storm.
However, the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) was virtually the same in seasons that started early as in those that did not.
While the past six early-onset hurricane seasons have been more active than usual, the 2015 seasonwhich also started early, produced just 11 storms and four hurricanes due largely to an intensifying El Niño.
(AFTER: 30 years ago, Hurricane Andrew proved that “it only takes one”)
At the other extreme, the first storm of the 2004 season, Alex, did not become a tropical storm until August 1.
So there is little useful information we can derive from the presence or absence of a storm prior to June 1 for hurricane season.
Even if there is no storm for a while, there are indications that another active hurricane season is ahead, including a potential La Niña triple dip that could reduce shear winds, which are hostile to tropical development.
From 1991 to 2020, the first storm in the Atlantic basin generally formed by June 20according to data compiled by the NHC.
It’s a reminder that now is the right time to develop or update your hurricane plan long before the first storm or hurricane of the season.
The primary journalistic mission of The Weather Company is to report on the latest weather news, the environment and the importance of science in our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.