For the second year in a row, meteorologists will begin sending out official tropical weather forecasts on May 15, two weeks before the official start of the six-month season. It’s not just for practice. A specific storm has formed before June in the last seven consecutive years – a pattern that scientists have attributed to better monitoring technology and possibly the impact of climate change.
And with early forecasts already calling for another active hurricane season, it is likely that storm watchers will once again find something to track.
There is a growing group of scientists who say moving the season up or even extending it makes sense, because climate change is warming the planet and facilitating storm formation earlier and later in the year.
NHC is not there – at least not yet.
“If we start on May 15, you could pick up an extra 1% of storms, but it’s more complicated than that,” said Ken Graham, director of the NHC.
Graham assembled a team of scientists last year to explore the possibility of changing the official dates of hurricane season. They have not yet completed their work, and once they do they will have to be presented to the World Meteorological Organization, which will vote on it. It can be hard to sell, because the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is made up of 28 countries, many of which don’t experience early storms.
“We’re not against it, but you can’t just do it. There are a lot of other things from a social science perspective that need to be taken into account,” Graham said.
For example, moving storm season early could push all pre-season training and conferences into hurricane season. It also outperforms all coordinated government campaigns on hurricane preparedness two weeks after peak season in August and September.
“The earlier you start hurricane season, the further away you are from the peak,” he said. “What are we really preparing for, we are preparing for the climax.”
Many meteorologists wonder why the season has expanded to include so-called “junk storms,” small, weak storms that may not have been noticed even using old satellite technology. Some of these storms still cause coastal flooding and rainstorms, but they are usually much weaker than their late-season cousins.
There is no doubt that climate change will also alter hurricanes. The science is still a bit murky but scientists are confident of some of the effects: Sea level rise is likely to increase storm surges, future storms are likely to be slower and wetter, and although climate change may lead to significantly fewer storms General, those storms are likely to be this strong.
NOAA will release its first season forecast on May 24.
This story was originally published May 13, 2022 12:13 PM.