Tropical Storm Bonnie became the second named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season Friday, with winds amping up to nearly 50 mph before the storm made landfall in southeastern Nicaragua late in the day.
By Friday, the storm had strengthened slightly and moved into the southwestern Caribbean Sea. Bonnie further strengthened before making landfall Friday night near the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border, where tropical storm warnings were in effect, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm, which was traveling at 16 mph, was expected to move through the area into Saturday.
While the system was expected to weaken when crossing over Central America, it was expected to strengthen again once it reached the warmer waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean on Saturday.
A storm is given a name after it reaches wind speeds of at least 39 mph, but days before Bonnie reached that point, it was bringing heavy rain to the Caribbean region along with the risk of life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides.
Maria Torres, a meteorologist with the hurricane center, said that to keep its name, Bonnie would need to “retain an identifiable closed circulation” as it moved over Central America into the Pacific Ocean. It is rare for a hurricane to jump from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Torres said, the last one being Hurricane Otto in 2016.
Jumps in the opposite direction — from the Pacific to the Atlantic basin — are even less common. Torres said that there was no record of a tropical cyclone that remained intact as it moved from the eastern Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.
Forecasters are watching two other storms in the Atlantic, including one that is expected to bring heavy rain this weekend to the U.S. Gulf Coast, where flood alerts are in effect in Texas and Louisiana. The other, much farther east, is expected to slowly follow Bonnie’s path toward Central America over the weekend.
Tropical Storm Alex, which formed June 5, was the first named storm of what is expected to be an “above normal” hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If that prediction comes true, 2022 would be the seventh consecutive year with an above-normal season.
This year, meteorologists predict the season — which runs through Nov. 30 — will produce 14 to 21 named storms. Six to 10 of them are expected to become hurricanes, and up to six of those are forecast to strengthen into major hurricanes, classified as Category 3 storms with winds of at least 111 mph.
Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020. For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that has happened only one other time, in 2005.
The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide during the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.