Atmospheric scientists from Colorado State University, Florida State University and hurricane experts from AccuWeather say the 2022 season could be very similar to last year – the third most active hurricane season. never recorded. In other words, most long-range models agree that 2022 will see a busy hurricane season, and that’s one of the reasons why.
La Niña, the cooling of the eastern equatorial Pacific, is expected to strengthen during this year and possibly in the first part of 2023. La Niña generally tends to drive the storm’s path (jet stream) well into north of where hurricanes often form and intensify in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. This condition reduces the amount of wind shear in the middle and upper troposphere, allowing these tropical cyclones to thrive if sea surface temperatures are warm enough.
El Niño generally reduces hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin. As the jet stream moves south, it creates wind shear in the upper atmosphere, disrupting the formation of hurricanes.
Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year, peaking on or around September 10. Hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific lasts a bit longer, from May 15 to November 30.
Seawater temperatures must be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 Celsius) or higher for these storms to strengthen. This is why it is rare for tropical cyclones to reach the California coast. Nevertheless, it happens. In 1939, a tropical storm hit Long Beach with high winds and torrential rain; Mount Wilson reported 11.6 inches of rain in 24 hours. Forty-five people in the Los Angeles area drowned in the resulting flooding, and high seas and winds carried 48 souls out to sea.
Once one of these storms reaches a sustained wind speed of 74 mph or more, it is classified as a hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone. The only difference between a cyclone, hurricane or typhoon is where the storm forms.
The term “hurricane” is used in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific. In the Pacific Northwest, this is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
The first person to name tropical cyclones was Clement Lindley Wragge of Queensland, Australia in the late 1800s. Wragge had a bad temper and he took to naming cyclones after politicians he disliked . A forecaster might publicly describe a storm named after a politician as “roaming the Pacific aimlessly or aimlessly.”
This brings us to the question: Is there a way to prevent the genesis of a hurricane? Or, if one develops, is there a way to change its course or weaken it?
At this point, it is more cost effective to move homes and businesses to areas that are not highly vulnerable to such storms and sea level rise due to climate change, but that may change.
You see, scientists and engineers have been working on technologies to reduce the threat over the years.
The US government program called Stormfury attempted to weaken hurricanes using cloud seeding with aircraft-mounted silver iodide flares, but it had very little success and has since been abandoned.
Another idea was to cover the ocean with a Jell-O-like substance or gigantic-sized rolls of plastic wrap to reduce evaporation from the ocean surface.
One suggestion was to use wave energy to drive pumps on surface barges or ships that would bring cold water from the depths of the ocean to the surface in hopes of lowering surface temperatures by seas below 80 degrees in the hurricane’s path to sap its strength.
Another idea along these lines was to tow arctic icebergs in the path of a cyclone.
A Norwegian company called OceanTherm, led by retired Norwegian submariner Olav Hollingsaeter, recently came up with an intriguing method to reduce the strength of hurricanes, eliminate them, or prevent them from forming.
The devastating damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 motivated Olav to develop the idea of OceanTherm. He and his team came up with the innovative idea of creating an artificial water lift using bubble curtains.
Upwelling occurs naturally along the California coast, generated by northwesterly winds. Relentless gales this spring have sent seawater temperatures plummeting by up to 40 degrees as cold, clear and nutrient-rich water rises to the surface along the immediate coastline.
A bubble curtain is a perforated pipe lowered into the water. The pipe is placed over an expanse of ocean, such as a narrow straight line, and works by delivering bubbles of compressed air to the depths. As the bubbles rise, they carry cold deep water with them to the surface of the ocean.
Currently they are running a pilot project in Norway, and the results are encouraging.
At 50 meters (164 feet) below the sea surface, they were able to lift the cooler water and reduce the sea surface temperature to 0.5 degrees Celsius or 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the water temperature at bubble curtain depth.
Going forward, they want to test bubble curtains at 150 meters (492 ft) and 200 meters (656 ft), which would place the bubble curtain well below the average thermocline between 250 and 350 ft in the major part of the Atlantic basin. This seawater at such depths is cold enough to kill the hurricane’s heat engine.
John Lindsey is Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant marine meteorologist and media relations representative. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @PGE_John.