Hurricane season started June 1st, and with it an unprecedented 10 year long drought of U.S. landfalling hurricanes that are Category 3 or higher.
Bonnie, the second tropical storm of the 2016 season, drenched parts of the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Rhode Island with up to 8 inches this past Memorial Day weekend. What’s ahead for the hurricane season of 2016? It has been a decade since the last major hurricane, Category 3 or higher, has made landfall in the United States. This is the longest period of time for the United States to avoid a major hurricane since reliable records began in 1850. According to a NASA study, a 10-year gap comes along only every 270 years.
The National Hurricane Center calls any Category 3 or more intense hurricane a “major” storm. It should be noted that hurricanes making landfall as less than Category 3 can still cause extreme damage, with heavy rains and coastal storm surges. Such was the case with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Timothy Hall, a research scientist who studies hurricanes at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York and colleague Kelly Hereid, who works for ACE Tempest Re, a reinsurance firm based in Connecticut, ran a statistical hurricane model based on a record of Atlantic tropical cyclones from 1950 to 2012 and sea surface temperature data.
The researchers ran 1,000 computer simulations of the period from 1950-2012 – in effect simulating 63,000 separate Atlantic hurricane seasons. They also found that there is approximately a 40% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall in the United States every year.
These visualizations show hurricane tracks from 1980 through 2015. Green tracks are storms that did not make landfall in the U.S.; yellow tracks are storms that made landfall but were not Category 3 or higher; and red tracks are Category 3 or higher hurricanes that did make landfall.
1. Over the past 10 years there have been 69 Atlantic hurricanes but during that time no hurricanes of Category 3 or higher have hit the U.S. coastline. Such a string of lucky years is likely to happen only once in 270 years, according to a NASA study.
2. Storms less than Category 3, such as Sandy in 2012, can still be dangerous.
3. But what about this upcoming hurricane season? Statistical analysis indicates that for any given year there is a 40% chance of a Category 3 or higher hurricane landing across the U.S. coastline.
But remember it only takes one storm in your area. Be prepared this summer.