HONOLULU — Hawaii and the central Pacific can expect two to four hurricanes, tropical depressions, or tropical storms this year, federal forecasters said Wednesday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual forecast predicts a 60% chance of a season below average. The Central Pacific region sees an average of about four or five tropical cyclones per year.
Officials said sea temperatures are below average for La Nina east of Hawaii, where storms have been factored into this year’s forecast.
“This year, we predict less activity in the Central Pacific region compared to normal seasons,” said Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA’s chief hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “The ongoing La Nina is likely to create strong vertical wind shear, making it more difficult for hurricanes to develop or move into the central Pacific.”
La Nina is a natural cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that changes weather patterns worldwide. The opposite El Nino pattern creates above-average ocean temperatures. It has been present during some of the most active hurricane seasons in the Pacific, including in 2015, when there were 16 storms in the central Pacific basin.
The La Nina pattern has been present for several years.
“In the last 50 years, we’ve only had two (La Nina) three years in a row,” said National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Kodama. “So this is a pretty rare occurrence.”
Officials said that it would only take one storm to create a disaster even with a slow hurricane season forecast.
Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said people should be prepared regardless of the optimistic outlook.
“Only one person is wandering near the state to cause a huge potential impact,” he said. “Hurricane Iniki, a major hurricane, hit Kauai directly 30 years ago this year, and those affected still remember the incredible devastating force Iniki delivered.”
Iniki was the last major hurricane to hit the state when it landed on the island of Kauai in 1992. In 2018, the massive and powerful Hurricane Lane made a last-minute turn, narrowly sparing Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island.
The hurricane season in Hawaii lasts from June 1 to the end of November. August and September are historically active months.
Only one named storm entered the Central Pacific in 2021 and failed to land near Hawaii.
Officials also provided an update on Hawaii’s wet and dry seasons. Kodama said the wet winter season was the 12th driest in the past 30 years and that it would have been worse without a major storm that dumped most of the season’s rain in just a few weeks.
“It was a wild wet season, to say the least; we had a lot of extremes,” said Kodama. In January, ‘ the tap was closed and remained so until March’.
He said entering the dry summer season in Hawaii is expected to continue in severe to extreme drought, and the state wildfire season could start earlier than usual. Climate change has exacerbated shortages in the western US and Hawaii.