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NWS Wilmington lead meteorologist says Cape Fear region "long overdue" for major hurricane

Satellite view. Hurricane Matthew Hits Haiti. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.
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NWS Wilmington's Matt Scalora said, "Every 20 years or so we can expect a major hurricane to impact the local area."

June 1 is the first official day of the 2022 hurricane season. Meteorologists say this year there will be an "above normal" number of storms.

At their 2022 hurricane forecast briefing, Matt Scalora, lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service Wilmington, said the timing is right for the Cape Fear region to have a massive storm.

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“We are, in general, overdue for a major hurricane in our neck of the woods. [...] This year is an interesting one because we have favorable ENSO conditions that being weak La Nina,” said Scalora.

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National Weather Service's Steve Pfaff said the way in which NOAA predicts the number of hurricanes within a season is improving.

These conditions, according to Scalora, mean a higher chance of a hurricane forming.

“It typically leads to a weaker subtropical jet across the tropical Atlantic, that meaning lower wind sheer, which makes it more favorable for storms to develop,” said Scalora.

That weak wind sheer means storms can more easily maintain their strength. And when La Nina is active that means almost double the number of storms when compared to El Nino years.

For example, Scalora said, "Over the last seven years, for El Nino conditions, we had 72 named storms, while the last seven La Nina years, we had almost double that at 125. So the La Nina years are definitely the ones to look out for. [...]. And we're definitely in a period warm phase, meaning warmer sea surface temperatures (SST) on average over the Atlantic."

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La Nina, warming seas, and the enhanced West African monsoon are contributors to this year's increased probability of hurricanes.

According to Scalora, above-normal sea temperatures and enhanced conditions for a West African monsoon — which bring active tropical waves — also increase this year’s probability of storms.

Sea-level rise, along with a warmer atmosphere, are primers — and optimal fuel — for hurricanes, according to Scalora.

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