HONOLULU– Hawaii and the central Pacific basin are expected to expect two to four hurricanes, tropical depressions or tropical storms this year, federal forecasters said Wednesday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual outlook predicts a 60% chance of a below-average season. The Central Pacific region sees about four or five tropical cyclones on average per year.
Officials said lower-than-average sea temperatures associated with La Nina east of Hawaii, where the storms form, factored into this year’s forecast.
“This year, we expect less activity in the Central Pacific region compared to normal seasons,” said Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA’s senior seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “The ongoing La Nina is likely to cause strong vertical wind shear, making it more difficult for hurricanes to develop or move through the central Pacific Ocean.”
La Nina is a natural cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather patterns around the world. The opposite El Nino pattern creates above average ocean temperatures and has been present during some of the most active hurricane seasons in the Pacific, including 2015, when there were 16 storms in the Pacific basin central.
The La Nina motif has been present for several years.
“In the past 50 years, we’ve only had two other times where we’ve had (La Nina) three years in a row,” said National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Kodama. “So it’s a pretty rare occurrence.”
Officials said even with a slow hurricane season predicted, it only takes one storm to cause a disaster.
Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said people need to be prepared, regardless of the optimistic outlook.
“It only takes one stray in the vicinity of the state to cause a huge potential impact,” he said. “Hurricane Iniki, a major hurricane, directly hit Kauai 30 years ago this year, and those affected still remember the incredible destructive power that Iniki delivered.”
Iniki was the last major hurricane to hit the state when it made landfall on the island of Kauai in 1992. In 2018, the huge and powerful Hurricane Lane made a last minute turn and narrowly spared Oahu , Hawaii’s most populous island.
Hurricane season in Hawaii lasts from June 1 through November. August and September are historically active months.
There was only one named storm that entered the central Pacific in 2021 and it did not make landfall or approach Hawaii.
Officials also provided an update on Hawaii’s wet and dry seasons. Kodama said the winter rainy season was the 12th driest in 30 years and that without a major storm that dumped most of the season’s rain in just a few weeks, it would have been worse.
“It was a wild wet season to say the least, we had a lot of extremes,” Kodama said. In January, “the tap closed and remained that way throughout the month of March”.
He said as the summer dry season approaches, Hawaii is expected to remain in severe to extreme drought conditions and the state’s wildfire season could start earlier than normal. Climate change has increased drought conditions in the western United States and Hawaii.