Atlantic Hurricane Season in Retrospect

Image courtesy of Pexels as part of Creative Commons License

 

On Thursday the 30th of November, the Atlantic hurricane season ended. With 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes [category 3 or higher (refer to the scale of intensity below)] it followed predictions as an above average season. It started out unusually with the rare pre-season tropical storm Arlene in April even before the official start of the season on the 1st of June. Additionally, at one point, three hurricanes; Irma, Jose, and Katia, were active in the basin simultaneously, which is something that has not been seen since 2010. Overall, this years season was uncommonly deadly and destructive and can by some standards be seen as the most active season in long. The acting NOAA Administrator said,“This was a hurricane season that wouldn’t quit. The season started early with a storm in April and the peak of the season featured an onslaught of ten successive hurricanes.”

 

The Saffir-Simpson Scale Of Hurricane Intensity

Category Wind Speed (mph) Storm Surge (ft)
Tropical Depression 0 – 38 0
Tropical Storm 39 – 73 0 – 3
1 74 – 95 4 – 5
2 96 – 110 6 – 8
3 111 – 129 9 – 12
4 130 – 156 13 – 18
5 157 or above 18 or above

 

The three major hurricanes that made landfall this season were: Harvey in Texas, Irma in the Caribbean and the southeastern USA, and Maria in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.

 

On August 25th, hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a category 4 storm. By the following morning, however, it had calmed down to a category 1 storm. Huston was badly hit by the hurricane, and a vast amount of homes were damaged. Hurricane Harvey caused terrible flooding, and it is believed that the majority of the deaths which occurred in connection with the hurricane were drownings.   

Irma broke records as the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin outside the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. It formed at the end of August, and it made two landfalls: one in the Caribbean as a category 5 storm and one in the mainland of USA as a category 4 storm, which mainly affected Florida. It left a chain of islands in the Caribbean destroyed and had damaged 95% of the infrastructure of the Island Barbuda after its eye had passed over the island during the peak of its intensity.

Category 5 hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on the morning of September 20th and caused destruction to the island, which already had a fragile infrastructure before the hurricane hit. After the hurricane had passed people struggled to find food and clean water. 90% of the island was left without electricity, and many houses were completely destroyed. The number of deaths caused by hurricane Maria is not certain. Officially it is estimated to be around 64 people, but many believe a more accurate death toll would be well over 500.

 

People have been debating on whether this year’s uncommonly active hurricane season was due to global warming, and whether this is true or not is uncertain. However, what we do know is that cyclones thrive more and become more active in hot conditions. Therefore, it is very likely that if global warming continues, it will cause cyclones globally to be more active and intense in the coming centuries.

Hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, are created when air gets warm, rises and creates an area of low pressure beneath it. More warm air is drawn in and joins the mass, which then rises and becomes the hurricane. The hurricane survives by getting energy from warm water, and the warmer it is, the better. The water later comes down as rain, which is why hurricanes can cause great floodings.

 

How are hurricanes named?

The names of hurricanes are selected by World Meteorological Organization. They maintain six lists for each tropical storm basin – as a result, each list is reused after six years. However, names of storms that were particularly deadly or destructive are retired from the list and replaced, such as Matthew, Otto, and Katrina. The names on the lists are arranged alphabetically, so the first storm of the season is given a name beginning with the letter A, the second a name beginning with the letter B and so on.

 

 


Citations

“Above normal atlantic hurricane season most likely this year: NOAA.” WMO, 25 May. 2017.  https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/above-normal-atlantic-hurricane-season-most-likely-year-noaa

“WMO retires matthew and Otto from list of hurricane names.” WMO, 27 March. 2017   https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/wmo-retires-matthew-and-otto-from-list-of-hurricane-names

“Extremely Active 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends.” WMO, 1 December. 2017.    https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/extremely-active-2017-atlantic-hurricane-season-finally-ends

Bedi, Brittany. “A look back: Hurricane Season 2017.” WCTV, 29 November. 2017                                http://www.wctv.tv/content/news/A-look-back-Hurricane-season-2017-460882043.html

“Tropical cyclone naming.” WMO,   https://public.wmo.int/en/About-us/FAQs/faqs-tropical-cyclones/tropical-cyclone-naming

“Hurricane Irma causes devastation, breaks records.” WMO, 12 September. 2017.          https://public.wmo.int/en/media/news/hurricane-irma-causes-devastation-breaks-records

“NOAA 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.” NOAA, 9 August. 2017.   http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml

“Global Warming and Hurricanes.” GFDL, 11 december. 2017.

Hoyos, Joshua and Caplan, David. “Puerto Rico’s hurricane Maria death toll climbs to 64, as FEMA assistance tops $1 billion.” ABC News, 10 December. 2017.                     http://abcnews.go.com/US/puerto-ricos-hurricane-maria-death-toll-climbs-64/story?id=51698527

“Hurricane Harvey aftermath.” CNN.    http://edition.cnn.com/specials/us/hurricane-harvey

Roy Britt, Robert. “How & Where Hurricanes form.” Live Science, 27 May. 2005.                                              https://www.livescience.com/3815-hurricanes-form.html

 

Written by Vera Smith Jonsson and Dagmara Pietrzak

One Comment
  1. Could not find a better source of hurricanes. Very well and clearly explained. Thank you for this very interesting article!

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