About nine months ago the tropical experts at ImpactWeather were beginning to get a handle on what looked, at the time, to be a record-setting 2010 Atlantic Tropical Season. In fact, during the pre-season “HAPPs” (Hurricane Awareness and Preparedness Presentations) that we prepare each season for our clients, we mentioned the potential for the 2010 season to go into the record books as one of the most busy seasons of recorded history; likely into the top five busiest of all-time. Now, with the naming of the 18th named storm (Tropical Storm Shary) just a few hours ago and with another disturbance that may be upgraded to depression- or more likely tropical storm-status later today, the 2010 season is indeed one of the busiest seasons ever (now tied for fourth busiest with 1969). But ask the nearest person on the street and they’ll most likely say, “Hurricanes? What hurricanes?” Indeed.
And that’s because of another aspect of the 2010 season that will go into the record books: The busiest season ever without a landfalling hurricane on the U.S. Coastline. Of course, the season is still a month away from ending and we’ll likely pick up an additional storm or two beyond Shary. Even still, the chances are good that the U.S. will finish the season without a landfalling hurricane (10+ hurricanes and no U.S. landfalls).
The season started off on June 29: Hurricane Alex. Alex began as a tropical wave on June 12 in the far eastern Atlantic, then moved west into the Caribbean Sea where it was named Tropical Storm Alex on June 26th. On the 29th it was upgraded to hurricane status, it then crossed the Yucatan Peninsula, the southern Gulf of Mexico and then made landfall just south of Brownsville, Texas in northern Mexico. Though the second strongest June storm of all time and responsible for widespread flooding in Mexico and Texas, it failed to grab headlines as the beginning of the reputed record-breaking season.
Nearly a month later on July 22, a cluster of storms that would become Tropical Storm Bonnie was upgraded to tropical depression status. It too formed off an African wave in the eastern Atlantic and moved westward taking almost three weeks to reach the Bahamas and strengthen into a weak tropical storm. The next day, as a minimal tropical storm, Bonnie reached Florida where it weakened to little more than a broad area of heavy rainfall with numerous embedded thunderstorms. The remnants of the storm pushed across the Gulf and reached Louisiana on July 25, never regaining tropical storm strength. Written off as a “let down” to those expecting a big storm, Bonnie failed to grab headlines outside its effect on the clean-up of the BP disaster.
Almost two months into the season and the two storms thus far were hardly the stuff of record-breaking seasons. More than a few began to poke at the science of tropical meteorology; some more seriously than others. But those of us in the business stood firm, mostly. Despite a few subtle mid-season adjustments to the overall numbers of major hurricanes, hurricanes and tropical storms the nationally and internationally recognized experts (Climate Prediction Center, Robert Klotzback, the UK Met Office, ImpactWeather among others) held fast that the 2010 would be well-above an average season.
From ImpactWeather’s lead hurricane forecaster Chris Hebert: “It’s now late October and the season is winding down, but it’s probably not over just yet. The good news for U.S. residents is that steering currents would take any hurricane that develops in the central Caribbean off to the north and northeast rather than into the Gulf of Mexico or toward the southeast U.S. Coast. It might be possible for another 1-3 additional named storms to form before the season officially ends on November 30th, but chances are good that any future development would not impact the U.S. mainland.”
Not only is this season firmly into the Top 5 with potential yet for a few more named storms, here are a few more interesting facts of the season so far:
- Hurricane Alex was the second strongest June hurricane of all time.
- The period from August 22 to September 20 was the busiest time, with a record eleven named storms.
- Most active season on record with no U.S. landfalling hurricane (so far?).
- Hurricane Karl is the strongest hurricane to ever hit Veracruz.
- Hurricane Karl is the only category three storm ever in the southern Bay of Campeche.
- Historically, one-in-four Atlantic hurricanes strikes the U.S. Mainland.