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Earth from Orbit: 2022 Hurricane Season Begins

June 9, 2022

The 2022 hurricane season is officially underway. The eastern Pacific hurricane season began on May 15, while June 1 marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. 

NOAA satellites monitored the first named storms in each hurricane basin. Tropical Storm Agatha formed in the eastern Pacific Ocean on May 28 and rapidly intensified into a Category 2 hurricane with peak winds of 110 miles per hour by the next day. Remnants from Agatha helped fuel what would become the Atlantic’s first tropical cyclone, Alex, that affected south Florida at the beginning of June. 

 

Hurricane Agatha

After it formed on May 28, Agatha underwent rapid intensification on May 29, strengthening into a Category 2 hurricane and reaching peak winds of 110 mph. By the afternoon of May 30, the hurricane reached Category 2 status. 

Agatha made landfall just west of Puerto Ángel, Oaxaca, Mexico on May 30. It was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall along the Pacific coast of Mexico in the month of May. As Agatha moved over Mexico and into the Gulf it generated flooding and caused mudslides that killed at least 9 people and left 20 missing.

On May 31, a storm partially related to the remnants of Hurricane Agatha in the Eastern Pacific resurfaced over the Yucatán Peninsula, and merged with a rather disorganized area of low pressure that had formed two days earlier.  

 

Tropical Storm Alex

The storm system that became Alex formed in the Gulf of Mexico on May 31, partially from the remnants of Hurricane Agatha. The system made landfall south of Fort Myers on Florida’s west coast and moved along a north-northeasterly route exiting the state on the east coast between Melbourne to the north and West Palm Beach to the south. 

Although it did not have sustained tropical-storm-force winds, it generated copious amounts of rainfall and inland flooding. Once the low pressure area moved out over the Atlantic Ocean, it organized into a tropical storm and was named Alex on June 5, the first named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. 

NOAA satellites provide vital information for forecasting hurricanes and monitoring the location, movement and intensity of storms. The GOES-16 and GOES-17 geostationary satellites continuously view the entire Atlantic and eastern/central Pacific hurricane basins to provide real-time tracking and monitoring of tropical cyclones as well as the environmental conditions that cause them to form. 

By imaging a storm as often as every 30 seconds, these satellites help forecasters more easily discern the movement of cloud features and provide greater confidence in estimating the center of the storm. GOES-16 and GOES- 17 also provide a detailed look at the storm properties of a hurricane, including cloud top cooling, central pressure, and convective structures as well as specific features of a hurricane’s eye, wind estimates, and lightning activity. This information is critical to estimating a storm’s intensity.

The Joint Polar Satellite System’s (JPSS) polar-orbiting satellites, Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20, capture data over each spot on Earth twice a day. They measure the state of the atmosphere by taking precise measurements of sea surface temperatures and atmospheric temperature and moisture, which are critical to securing storm forecasts several days in advance. JPSS instruments provide data that are particularly useful in helping forecasters predict a hurricane’s path 3 to 7 days out.

NOAA’s 2022 seasonal outlook for the eastern Pacific indicates that a below-normal season is likely, while NOAA predicts a more active season than normal in the Atlantic. The ongoing La Niña and resulting changes in vertical wind shear in key regions of hurricane formation and development are one of the key factors behind these forecasts. Hurricane season runs through November 30. Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center for the latest information on tropical storm and hurricane activity.