After the landfall of Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent landfall of Hurricane Irma, it seems the United States has had a crazier than normal Atlantic Hurricane season. Or possibly it’s just media hype? I think it’s important to look at statistics before we get too worried about the hurricane season which actually has been the most destructive since 2005.
First, let’s compare this year's season, which is still ongoing until November 30th, to 2016 Hurricane season. The average for hurricane seasons, (overall data from (1981 to 2010), is 12.1 named storms, usually tropical storms or depressions; 6.4 hurricanes, which includes any hurricane between the category of one to about three; and 2.7 major hurricanes, which includes hurricanes that are category four or higher. 2016 had a higher than average hurricane season with fifteen named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Meteorologists say the high season had been due to an El Nino which affected the moisture and water temperatures in the atlantic ocean.
So far this season we have had thirteen storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes, which is very close to 2016’s totals. We still have two more months until the end of hurricane season. Atlantic Hurricane season starts officially on June 1st which is around the average time when these weather patterns begin to form, and ends on November 30th when the tropical cyclones dissipate. Tropical cyclones can occur anytime of the year, weather conditions permitting. 2016’s season started as early as January 12th, and 2017’s season on April 19th. 2005, the most active hurricane season in history had a hurricane season that lasted until January.
The season might seem like it is only a little bit more active than average however, it’s important to note that the average has increased since the 2000s due to the record high hurricane season in 2005 and the ever escalating hurricane seasons later. Before 2005, the averages had been 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes. The hurricanes in 2005 shattered those averages with a whopping twenty-eight named storms, fifteen hurricanes and seven major hurricanes. This had been the season to produce storms like Katrina, Wilma, Rita and Dennis.
Environmental activists and ecologists have pointed out that the rise in active atlantic hurricane seasons has been due to climate change and global warming. It is true that the average water temperature has been increasing annually and that the water temperature can affect the strength of a hurricane. This had an impact on Hurricane Katrina’s intensity, which had been a category four before entering the gulf coast. That year the Gulf Coast had unseasonable warm waters, resulting in the Hurricane blowing up in intensity from a category four to a category five.
While this season isn’t the most active on record, it is higher than average and is far higher than the old average before the 2005 hurricane season. It’s important to pay attention to the intensity of these seasons as years go on because they will and already are affecting atlantic tropical areas like Puerto Rico and Windward Islands and this season is already far more active than previously predicted. Hopefully it won’t get much worse, but it might.