The global tropical cyclone season of 2010: record inactivity

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:14 AM GMT on April 03, 2011

Share this Blog
9
+

The year 2010 was one of the strangest on record globally for tropical cyclones. Each year, the globe has about 92 tropical cyclones--called hurricanes in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, typhoons in the Western Pacific, and tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere. But in 2010, we had just 68 of these storms--the fewest since the dawn of the satellite era in 1970. The previous record slowest year was 1977, when 69 tropical cyclones occurred world-wide. Both the Western Pacific and Eastern Pacific had their quietest seasons on record in 2010, the Atlantic had its 3rd busiest season since record keeping began in 1851, and the Southern Hemisphere had a below average season. As a result, the Atlantic, which ordinarily accounts for just 13% of global cyclone activity, accounted for 28% in 2010--the greatest proportion since accurate tropical cyclone records began in the 1970s. Global Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) for 2010 was the lowest since the late 1970s (ACE is a measure of the total destructive power of a hurricane season, based on the number of days strong winds are observed.)


Figure 1. Visible satellite image of 2010's strongest tropical cyclone: Super Typhoon Megi at 2:25 UTC October 18, 2010. A reconnaissance aircraft measured a central pressure of 885 mb and surface winds of 190 mph in the storm, making Megi the 8th strongest tropical cyclone in world history. Image credit: NASA.

A record quiet 2010 Northwest Pacific Typhoon Season
The Western Pacific set records for fewest number of named storms (fifteen, previous record seventeen in 1998) and typhoons (nine, tied with the previous record of nine in 1998. Note that Tropical Storm Mindulle was upgraded to a typhoon in post-analysis after the season was over.) Reliable records began in the mid-1960s. For just the second year in history, the Atlantic had more named storms and hurricane-strength storms than the Western Pacific. The only other year this occurred was in 2005. Ordinarily, the Western Pacific has double to triple the amount of tropical cyclones of the Atlantic. One other notable feature of the 2010 season was the lack of a land-falling typhoon on the Japanese mainland. This is only the second such occurrence since 1988.

In 2010, there was only one super typhoon--a storm with at least 150 mph winds--in the Western Pacific. However, this storm, Super Typhoon Megi, was a doozy. Megi's sustained winds cranked up to a fearsome 190 mph and its central pressure bottomed out at 885 mb on October 16, making it the 8th most intense tropical cyclone in world history. Fortunately, Megi weakened significantly before hitting the Philippines as a Category 3 typhoon. Megi killed 69 people on Taiwan and in the Philippines and did $700 million in damage, and was the second deadliest and damaging typhoon of 2010. Category 3 Typhoon Fanapi was the deadliest and most damaging typhoon of 2010, doing over $1 billion in damage to Taiwan and China and killing 105.

The record quiet typhoon season in 2010 was due, in part, to the La Niña phenomena. During such events, the formation region for Western Pacific typhoons moves northwestward, closer to China. Thus, storms that form in the Western Pacific spend less time over water before they encounter land, resulting in a lesser chance to become a named storm, and less time to intensify. They also accumulate a lower ACE due to their shorter duration. Since the Western Pacific is responsible for 35% of the world's major tropical cyclones, the global ACE value is strongly tied to year-to-year variations in the El Niño/La Niña cycle.


Figure 2.
Statistics for the global tropical cyclone season of 2010. The two numbers in each box represent the actual number observed in 2010, followed by the averages from the period 1983-2007 (in parentheses). Averages and records were computed using the December 23, 2008 release of NOAA's International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship.

A record quiet 2010 Eastern Pacific Typhoon Season
In the Eastern Pacific, it was also a record-quiet season. On average, the Eastern Pacific has 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes in a season. In 2010, there were 8 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. The previous record quietest season since 1966 was the year 1977, when the Eastern Pacific had 8 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and zero intense hurricanes. La Niña was largely responsible for the quiet Eastern Pacific hurricane season, due in part to the cool sea surface temperatures it brought. It is quite remarkable that both the Eastern and Western Pacific ocean basins had record quiet seasons in the same year--there is no historical precedent for such an occurrence.

Climate change and the 2008 global tropical cyclone season
We only have about 30 years of reliable global tropical cyclone data, and tropical cyclones are subject to large natural variations in numbers and intensities. Thus, it will be very difficult at present to prove that climate change is affecting global tropical cyclone activity. (This is less so in the Atlantic, where we have a longer reliable data record to work with.) A common theme of many recent publications on the future of tropical cyclones globally in a warming climate is that the total number of these storms will decrease, but the strongest storms will get stronger. For example, a 2010 review paper published in Nature Geosciences concluded: "greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2 - 11% by 2100. Existing modeling studies also consistently project decreases in the globally averaged frequency of tropical cyclones, by 6 - 34%. Balanced against this, higher resolution modeling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre." Last year, I discussed a paper by Bender et al that concluded that the total number of Atlantic hurricanes is expected to decrease by the end of the century, but there could be an increase of 81% in the number of Category 4 and 5 storms. The net effect of a decrease in total number of hurricanes but an increase in the strongest hurricanes should cause an increase in U.S. hurricane damages of about 30% by the end of the century, the authors computed, assuming that hurricane damages behave as they did during the past century. A new paper just published by Murakami et. al predicts that Western Pacific tropical cyclones may decrease in number by 23% by the end of the century, primarily due to a shift in the formation location and tracks of these storms.

In light of these theoretical results, it is interesting that 2010 saw the lowest number of global tropical cyclones on record, but an average number of very strong Category 4 and 5 storms. Fully 21% of last year's tropical cyclones reached Category 4 or 5 strength, versus just 14% during the period 1983 - 2007. Most notably, in 2010 we had the second strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea (Category 4 Cyclone Phet in June) and the strongest tropical cyclone ever to hit Myanmar/Burma (October's Tropical Cyclone Giri, an upper end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds.) It is too early to read anything into this year's global tropical cyclone numbers, though--we need many more years of data before making any judgments on how global tropical cyclones might be responding to climate change.


Figure 3. Visible satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Phet on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Record heat over southern Asia in May helped heat up the Arabian Sea to 2°C above normal, and the exceptionally warm SSTs helped fuel Tropical Cyclone Phet into the second strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Arabian Sea. Phet peaked at Category 4 strength with 145 mph winds. Only Category 5 Cyclone Gonu of 2007, which devastated Oman, was a stronger Arabian Sea cyclone. Phet killed 44 people and did $700 million in damage to Oman.


Figure 4. Visible MODIS satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Giri taken at 2:55am EDT October 22, 2010, just prior to landfall in Myanmar/Burma. At the time, Giri was a Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds. Giri killed 157 people and did $359 million in damage. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 1369 - 1319

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37Blog Index

Quoting InconceivableF6:

How about Charlie?


Actually in Boca FL, from what I remember Charley didn't do much to us but I know it was really bad 150 miles back West near Fort Myers-Port Charlotte FL.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The journal Nature has a fine collection of articles in a Special on the Japan earthquake and nuclear crisis:

Nature Japan Special - Index to Articles
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:



are you JFV?


JFV would be expressing discontentment at the fact that the US avoided a major strike, not exalting it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1365. JRRP
here are my numbers
14 NS
8 H
5 MH
have a nice day
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:


thats easy your local Gov. won't revaluate your property cause they would be taking in less tax revenues.


Wa State is $1Billion in the hole whith all it's social programs for which the governor is reluctantly cutting back on.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting TampaSpin:


Ya i don't really get it! While world Gov. are showing high inflation hitting our Gov. is saying only a hint of inflation is occuring. AMAZING...Not trying to make any political statement or nothing but, this affects everyone.


Too many misleading statements for political gains. Fear/greed run the stock markets.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting IFuSAYso:


Odd thing is, Cattle prices are going up but property values are going down. I have 243 acres here in Washington state. The value has dropped 25% but the taxes don't change.


thats easy your local Gov. won't revaluate your property cause they would be taking in less tax revenues.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IFuSAYso:


Double inflation.


Ya i don't really get it! While world Gov. are showing high inflation hitting our Gov. is saying only a hint of inflation is occuring. AMAZING...Not trying to make any political statement or nothing but, this affects everyone.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting IFuSAYso:


Double inflation.


Odd thing is, Cattle prices are going up but property values are going down. I have 243 acres here in Washington state. The value has dropped 25% but the taxes don't change.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting TampaSpin:
UNLEADED GAS


GOLD


SILVER


WHEAT


COTTON



DID A LITTLE CHARTING FOR YOU ALL JUST FOR YOUR INFO.....FIND IT INTERESTING THAT THE GOVERNMENT SAYS WE DON'T HAVE MUCH INFLATION OCCURRING......I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE LOOKING AT?

COFFEE


CATTLE


SUGAR




I REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE THINKINNG WHEN SOME THINK INFLATION IS NOT KICKING IN?


Double inflation.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting jeffs713:
As a note, with all these hurricane forecasts, I would be VERY content with 0-0-0-0, for two reasons:

1. No death, destruction, and mayhem.
2. The trolls... I mean posters on this blog would be absolutely hilarious to watch. Just think of the freaking out that would happen! We would have to sell tickets!


Further discussion on GE.Link
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting jeffs713:
As a note, with all these hurricane forecasts, I would be VERY content with 0-0-0-0, for two reasons:

1. No death, destruction, and mayhem.
2. The trolls... I mean posters on this blog would be absolutely hilarious to watch. Just think of the freaking out that would happen! We would have to sell tickets!


In some ways, I think the trolls are worse than the actual storms.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I am even more obsessed and interested with tropical weather than even normal severe weather here. However, I really don't care that much about long range predictions. Mainly because I don't wanna get myself hyped about things that can and will change a lot, and I don't wanna get hyped about something that has a while to go. As a kid, it used to drive me crazy trying to predict hurricane seasons way ahead of time and getting hyped about where they might go. The same goes for forecasting activity in the wet season here.

Don't get me wrong, I like forecasting. However I don't wanna get myself hyped till we get to that point where they actually start developing. Especially so when I'm dealing with integration calculus, physics applications, and differential equations. I need to not let long range stuff get to me, I must stay focused!

However when systems start developing in hurricane season, that's when I really get hyped.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
As a note, with all these hurricane forecasts, I would be VERY content with 0-0-0-0, for two reasons:

1. No death, destruction, and mayhem.
2. The trolls... I mean posters on this blog would be absolutely hilarious to watch. Just think of the freaking out that would happen! We would have to sell tickets!
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5886
1350. Patrap

Recon,,

Ooh Rah
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
Quoting KoritheMan:


Even I'd consider evacuating from a Category 4, and I'm 60 miles inland. lol

I do have my limits.


Katrina did damage all the way to Jacksonville, MS
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


One of my favorite Eastwood movies (he is an Army vet) next to Unforgiven. I can relate to the song. Recon Scouts Out front.
Member Since: March 8, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 154
1346. BtnTx
?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1345. Ossqss
Quoting aspectre:
Jes joshin', Patrap. Used your post to get ready for this season's bloggers after remembering all the folks comparing the Yucatan to the Everglades when humongousTropicalStormAlex started its crossing.
If it the Yucatan's rough southern terrain hadn't broken it, Alex woulda probably turned as nasty as the worst of Wilma (or nearly) after it reached the Bay of Campeche.


If memory servers, that was the disturbance that would not quit for a week or more. Cranking up at the shore line.

Patrap, do you remember the odd looking system the drooped over the S/SE US at about that time? It was not simultaneous, but in close prox to that system. I gotta go look.

Clickable



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1344. Patrap
We like the info on it as we pay alot of attention to it up here at the Mouth of da river..and we all share the dance with the swirly's
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
Jes joshin', Patrap. Used your post to get ready for this season's bloggers after remembering all the folks comparing the Yucatan to the Everglades when humongousTropicalStormAlex started its crossing.
If the Yucatan's rough southern terrain hadn't broken it, Alex woulda probably turned as nasty as the worst of Wilma (or nearly) after it reached the Bay of Campeche.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1342. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1341. pottery
Quoting Patrap:
1315. aspectre

Why I most certainly do stand corrected,,and I most enjoyed the factual Geographical lesson as well.

..lets celebrate with "Mint Juleps" all around !



Sounds good to me....
Cheers!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1340. Patrap
1315. aspectre

Why I most certainly do stand corrected,,and I most enjoyed the factual Geographical lesson as well.

..lets celebrate with "Mint Juleps" all around !


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128871
Quoting hurricaneben:


and even that would have to be a tad bit over the top.


See, to me that's NOT over the top. I actually have every intention of eventually chasing hurricanes when I get the equipment.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Now how would you know that? (smiley face)


Everyone knows you on here LOL
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
1336. aquak9
hurricaneben obviously does not hafta worry about Florida's hurricane deductable on his(parent's) homeowner's insurance.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1333. Grothar
Quoting aquak9:
hahahaha

I KNEW that would get yer goat!!! baaa-aa-aaaa!!


Now how would you know that? (smiley face)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


I live in a hurricane prone region, and the more the merrier I always say. I don't want Katrina's, but I do so enjoy the threat of a strong tropical storm or weak hurricane.

I don't think I could live outside a hurricane prone area, to be honest.


Agreed. I'd like some action (like what we got in S FL from Katrina), even minor damage is fine by me like brief power outages wont harm me but nothing too devastating. I dont really want something like Andrew, Wilma has an exciting-enough experience for me and even that would have to be a tad bit over the top.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1331. aquak9
ahhh, hi F6. Are you stealing my swoons?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1330. aquak9
hahahaha

I KNEW that would get yer goat!!! baaa-aa-aaaa!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1328. Grothar
Quoting aquak9:


irregardless, it does become repeatedly repetitive.

(runs and hides, giggling)


You better run and hide after using a word like irregardless. LOL Why you little funster you!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1327. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1326. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1325. aquak9
Quoting Grothar:


Just saying, you know. LOL


irregardless, it does become repeatedly repetitive.

(runs and hides, giggling)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Speaking of, where do you live F6, if I may ask? I'm in Louisiana.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting InconceivableF6:

I could not agree with you any more than that, Kori. Many areas of the southeast so desperately need the precipitation as it is. As long as it isn't too destructive or extreme.


Even I'd consider evacuating from a Category 4, and I'm 60 miles inland. lol

I do have my limits.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting InconceivableF6:

"Maybe even better to me?" LOL. You must not live in a susceptible region? No?


I live in a hurricane prone region, and the more the merrier I always say. I don't want Katrina's, but I do so enjoy the threat of a strong tropical storm or weak hurricane.

I don't think I could live outside a hurricane prone area, to be honest.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
In the 288/300-hour model NCEP map, do I see a possible subtropical storm, or is it just me?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 1369 - 1319

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Overcast
53 °F
Overcast