What does the hurricane season look like?

The official Atlantic basin hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with an average of 10 to 15 storms each year.

2022 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season Infographic. (Credit: NOAA)

The peak of activity in the Atlantic basic runs from mid-August to mid-October. During that subset of the entire season, more than 70% of all storms in the last 100 years have occurred.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts that there is a 70% chance that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will include 14 to 21 named storms, or storms with winds of 39 mph or higher. Of those, NOAA predicts that six to 10 hurricanes will have winds of 74 mph or greater, and three to six major hurricanes will have winds of 111 mph. This could be the seventh year in a row that the hurricane season is more active than usual.

Hurricanes are given people’s names because it is easy to identify one storm from another and the names are easy to remember. When a tropical storm reaches wind speeds of 39 mph, the storm is then called Tropical Storm “Blank,” the blank being whatever name is next on the alphabetical list. A tropical storm is classified as a hurricane when it reaches wind speeds of 74 mph. If the storm turns into a hurricane, it keeps its original name and is referred to as Hurricane “Blank.”

The first storm of the 2022 year will be named Alex, and the next four will be named Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, and Earl, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The Saffir–Simpson scale rates hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the damage their winds would cause upon landfall. Major hurricanes are those classified as Category 3 and higher on this scale. Category 3 hurricanes have a one-minute sustained wind between 111 mph and 130 mph. The one-minute sustained winds in a Category 5 hurricane are greater than 155 mph.

Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the UW-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. the last Monday of each month. Send them your questions at stevea@ssec.wisc.edu or jemarti1@wisc.edu.

Category: Climate, Severe Weather, Tropical

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