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Another extreme Atlantic hurricane season predicted in 2022

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Workers clear tree damage in Valladolid as Tropical Storm Grace whips through the Yucatán Peninsula in August 2021. Photo: Courtesy

Some weather forecasters believe the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season will be very active for the third straight year.

Jumping ahead of the official National Hurricane Center forecast, rivals at AccuWeather are already predicting extreme weather.

Compared to government meteorologists at NOAA, AccuWeather is a little more daring with its long-term predictions. The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and hits its peak in mid-September.

Hurricane Delta rages through Yucatán in 2020. Photo: NOAA

Anywhere between 16 to 20 named storms will be developing and six to eight of those will be hurricanes, long-range forecasters at AccuWeather predicted Monday. The more cautious folks at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center usually withhold their predictions until late May.

Of those hurricanes, the private company’s forecasters believe three to five will strengthen into major hurricanes with top sustained winds of 111 mph or higher.

Between four and six weather events will directly impact the US mainland, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

Earlier: Here are 2022’s hurricane names to watch out for

Based on the past 30 years, a “normal” Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which turn into major hurricanes.

Three to four named storms typically affect the U.S. during hurricane season — which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but can spark some named storms as early as April or May.

2021: Grace thrashes the Yucatán

The 2020 season was the most active one on record, with 30 named storms in the Atlantic hurricane basin, and the 2021 season was the third most active season, with 21 named storms.

Two major factors have led to this early forecast for an active 2022 hurricane season.

The warm surface temperature in the three main bodies of water that make up the Atlantic hurricane basin — the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea — is the first clue.

2020: Cristobal’s rains surpass deadly Isadoro’s in 2002

“Sea-surface temperatures are above normal over much of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and even off the East Coast of the United States, especially the southeast coast of the United States, and these are critical areas for early season development,” said Dan Kottlowski, an AccuWeather hurricane expert.

Then there’s a persisting La Niña climate pattern. A strong El Niño — which occurs when Pacific Ocean temperatures warm up — tends to boost the amount of wind shear in the Atlantic hurricane basin, limiting the formation and strength of tropical cyclones.

But a mighty La Niña — formed when tropical Pacific waters are cooler than normal — makes it easier for tropical systems to develop and strengthen in the Atlantic basin.

The system is “expected to persist through the beginning of the tropical season,” AccuWeather said.

Kottlowski said if La Niña gets stronger, it could boost the number of named storms to more than 20. But it could weaken or fade away in summer or early fall, reducing the number of named storms in 2022.

More: Preparing for hurricane season in Yucatán

The most recent notable hurricane to reach the Yucatán Peninsula was Wilma in 2005. But people still talk about 1988’s Hurricane Gilberto, or Gilbert.

In nine days, Gilberto killed 318 people and caused US$7.1 billion (in 1988 dollars) in damage after sinking 83 ships and destroying 60,000 homes.

More than 5,000 American tourists were evacuated from Cancun, and tens of thousands of peninsula residents were left homeless. Gilberto also infected and wiped out the northern peninsula’s coconut palm population.

At the time, Gilberto was the most powerful hurricane to ever strike Mexico.

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