Nineteen Atlantic tropical storms 3 consecutive years: a very rare event

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:13 PM GMT on November 28, 2012

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The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season closes this Friday with another top-five tally for named storms--nineteen. This is the third consecutive year with nineteen named storms in the Atlantic, which is a remarkable level of activity for a three-year period. The closest comparable three-year period of activity occurred during 2003 - 2004 - 2005, when each season had fifteen-plus named storms. Since 1851, only two seasons--2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (20 named storms)--have been busier than 2010, 2011, and 2012.


Figure 1. Preliminary tracks of the nineteen named storms from 2012. Image credit: National Hurricane Center.

How rare are 3 consecutive top-five hurricane seasons for named storms?
It is tremendously rare to get three consecutive top-five years in a database with a 162-year record. This would occur randomly just once every 34,000 years--assuming the database were unbiased, the climate were not changing, and a multi-year climate pattern favorable for active seasons were not present. However the database IS biased, the climate IS changing, and we have been in an active hurricane period that began in 1995. So, which of these factors may be responsible for recording three consecutive years with nineteen named storms? It is well-known that prior to the arrival of geostationary satellites in December 1966 and aircraft hurricane reconnaissance in 1945 that tropical storms in the Atlantic were under-counted. Landsea et al. (2004) theorized that we missed up to six named storms per year between 1851 - 1885, and up to four between 1886 - 1910. Landsea (2007) estimated the under-count to be 3.2 named storms per year between 1900 - 1965, and 1.0 per year between 1966 - 2002. Other studies have argued for lower under-counts. So, if we assume the highest under-counts estimated by Landsea et al. (2004) and Landsea (2007), here would be the top ten busiest Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1851:

2005: 28
1887: 25
1933: 23
1995: 20
2012, 2011, 2010, 1969, 1936: 19

So, 2012, 2011, and 2010 would still rank as top-five busiest seasons since 1851, but the odds of having three consecutive seasons with nineteen named storms would drop from a 1-in-34,000 year event to "only" a 1-in-5800 year event. More recently, Landsea et al. (2010) showed that the increasing trend in North Atlantic tropical storm frequency over the past 140 years was largely due to the increasing trend in short‐lived storms (storms lasting 2 days or less, called “shorties”), after the 1940s (Figure 2, top). They did not detect a significant increasing trend in medium‐ to long‐lived storms lasting more than 2 days. They wrote that “while it is possible that the recorded increase in short‐duration TCs [tropical cyclones] represents a real climate signal, we consider it is more plausible that the increase arises primarily from improvements in the quantity and quality of the observations, along with enhanced interpretation techniques.” Villarini et al. (2011), in a paper titled, "Is the recorded increase in short-duration North Atlantic tropical storms spurious?", agreed. They attempted to correlate increases in tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures in recent decades to the increase in short-lived Atlantic tropical storms, and were unable to do so. They wrote: using statistical methods combined with the current understanding of the physical processes, we are unable to find support for the hypothesis that the century‐scale record of short‐lived tropical cyclones in the Atlantic contains a detectable real climate signal. Therefore, we interpret the long‐term secular increase in short‐duration North Atlantic tropical storms as likely to be substantially inflated by observing system changes over time. These results strongly suggest that studies examining the frequency of North Atlantic tropical storms over the historical era (between the 19th century and present) should focus on storms of duration greater than about 2 days. So, let's do that. If we look during the past three hurricane seasons at how many "shorties" were observed, we see that a large number that stayed at tropical storm strength for two days or less: six storms in 2010, six in 2011, and seven in 2012. This leaves the hurricane seasons of 2010, 2011, and 2012 with twelve to thirteen tropical storms that lasted more than two days. This doesn't stand out that much when looking at trends since 1878 (Figure 2, bottom); there are now 25 years in the 135-year record with twelve or more long-lived tropical cyclones. However, there are no previous occurrences of three consecutive years with at least twelve long-lived tropical storms, so 2010, 2011, and 2012 still represent an unprecedented level of tropical storm activity in the historical record, and we would expect such an event to occur randomly about once every 157 years. That's a pretty rare event, and it is possible that climate change, combined with the fact we are in an active hurricane period that began in 1995, contributed to this rare event.


Figure 2. Atlantic tropical cyclones between 1878 - 2012 that spent two days or less at tropical storm strength (top) and more than two days at tropical storm strength or hurricane strength (bottom.) Figure updated from Villarini, G., G. A. Vecchi, T. R. Knutson, and J. A. Smith (2011), "Is the recorded increase in short-duration North Atlantic tropical storms spurious?", J. Geophys. Res., 116, D10114, doi:10.1029/2010JD015493.

References
Landsea, C. W., C. Anderson, N. Charles, G. Clark, J. Dunion, J. Fernandez‐Partagas, P. Hungerford, C. Neumann, and M. Zimmer (2004), "The Atlantic hurricane database re‐analysis project: Documentation for 1851–1910 alterations and additions to the HURDAT database," in Hurricanes and Typhoons ‐ Past, Present, and Future, edited by R. J. Murnane and K. B. Liu, pp. 178–221, Columbia Univ. Press, New York.

Landsea, C. W., (2007), "Counting Atlantic tropical cyclones back to 1900," Eos, 88(18), 197-202.

Villarini, G., G. A. Vecchi, T. R. Knutson, and J. A. Smith (2011), "Is the recorded increase in short-duration North Atlantic tropical storms spurious?", J. Geophys. Res., 116, D10114, doi:10.1029/2010JD015493

Jeff Masters

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375. yoboi
Quoting MrMixon:


I should start a business where I do google searches for other people (apparently there's a market):

Possible solutions for climate change <- click this link for a quick google search which answers your question

There's no guarantee the ideas in those links will work... but that's not what you asked. You just asked if anyone has a plan. The answer is once again a dramatically unsurprising: "yes."



more people should post ideas how to fix things and do them instead of posting graphs and charts and quit crying about who says what...
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Great idea.

Does that also involve refraining from blogging, since we use computers, tablets, and mobile devices to communicate to each other. All of which are derived from oil products.

Okay. No more blogging everyone. You heard the man!


I think you're being facetious but if one balances the good from fossil fuel products against their costs to the environment, IMO, computers and other electronic communication devices would come out near the top in efficiency.

I'd love to see the numbers though so if anyone has them, please share.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting yoboi:



does anyone have a plan with how to fix things??? when do you transition from charts and graphs to fixing the problem???


I should start a business where I do google searches for other people (apparently there's a market):

Possible solutions for climate change <- click this link for a quick google search which answers your question

There's no guarantee the ideas in those links will work... but that's not what you asked. You just asked if anyone has a plan. The answer is once again a dramatically unsurprising: "yes."
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting TomballTXPride:
No, Scott.

Let's rephrase this one that doesn't go over you and Neo's head. Cute one by the way, Neo.

LOL. Yes. Over my head. The one that got me an advanced degree in environmental science.
Quoting TomballTXPride:

Let's try this instead: Are we still using paleoecology and dendrochronology analysis today to understand climate this present moment in conjunction with our other tools we now have adopted?

There is a heirarchy to which data is used for analyses. Data with the least bias and the smallest error bars are typically chosen first, followed by data that progressively gets more and more uncertain. Although not showing the exact same thing, satellite-derived temperature estimates are considered among the best data sets available for studying global climate, and they show the same rate of warming to the other temperature data sets since the late 1970s.

If one were to claim that the modern warming period's start in the 1970s was not coincidental to the introduction of satellite-derived data, that wouldn't imply that the satellites were biased toward more warming?
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3172
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Great idea.

Does that also involve refraining from blogging, since we use computers, tablets, and mobile devices to communicate to each other. All of which are derived from oil products.

Okay. No more blogging everyone. You heard the man!




Quite an empty counterargument, don't you think? Looks more like an attempt to be facetious.

Since I didn't'get an answer from you a few days ago (forgive me if I missed it) would you be kind enough to satisfy my curiosity? Do you feel that there has been no increase in the earth's temperature, or do you feel that there has been an increase, but human activity is not to blame? Or something else entirely?
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1225
Quoting pcola57:


I have a brother there too pot..
Were you and your sister close?
I mean $518 million close?

She was staying at my house for Christmas.
I think I even gave her a present.
I'd settle for a few mil's.

Good luck to your Bro.
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Quoting TomballTXPride:


You mean the one you haven't spoke to in 30 years...
heheheheheh !!!!
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368. yoboi
Quoting MrMixon:


Here, let me google that for you:

Scholarly articles published since 2011 with search terms "dendrochronology" "satellite" and "temperature"

The answer is a dramatically unsurprising: "yes."



does anyone have a plan with how to fix things??? when do you transition from charts and graphs to fixing the problem???
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting pottery:

Hmmm...

I think I'll give my Dear Sweet Sister a call.
Haven't spoken to her in a while.
She's in Arizona.........

:):))


I have a brother there too pot..
Were you and your sister close?
I mean $518 million close?
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6779
Quoting Bielle:


It was half a billion (yes, that is a "b" and not an "m") U.S.dollars. The prize was won by 2 tickets: one sold in Arizona and one sold in Missouri.

Hmmm...

I think I'll give my Dear Sweet Sister a call.
Haven't spoken to her in a while.
She's in Arizona.........

:):))
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TomballTXPride:


No, Scott.

Let's rephrase this one that doesn't go over you and Neo's head. Cute one by the way, Neo.

Let's try this instead: Are we still using paleoecology and dendrochronology analysis today to understand climate this present moment in conjunction with our other tools we now have adopted?


Here, let me google that for you:

Scholarly articles published since 2011 with search terms "dendrochronology" "satellite" and "temperature"

The answer is a dramatically unsurprising: "yes."
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting hydrus:
How much was the prize money Bielle


It was half a billion (yes, that is a "b" and not an "m") U.S.dollars. The prize was won by 2 tickets: one sold in Arizona and one sold in Missouri.
Member Since: September 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 615
Quoting percylives:


JMO, but I think the Clean Air Act had a lot more to do with the rapid increase in warming after the 70's than the satellite data did. All the sulfur particles were reflecting solar radiation cooling the planet.


Good point. There had been some warming prior to the 70s, particularly in the 40s when some northern regions, such as Greenland and Scandinavia warmed appreciably.

But, scientists were a bit confused that there hadn't been more warming, given the additional CO2. One theory is that 'global dimming' due to soot and sulfur dioxide, counterbalanced the warming.

I could envisage a future scenario where desperate measures to curtail global warming might be tried. Paradoxically, this might entail producing electricity by burning high sulfur coal. It might just work as a 'technofix', but what an unpleasant world that would be.
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


So, wait... you are actually going to argue that the usage of satellite-derived temperature data has introduced a warming bias to the trends? That's a new one.
Yeah. You know, kinda like your obese brother who blames his weight on the digital bathroom scale you bought for him last Christmas... ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13474
Re: #334 -- We're in full "Dry" here in Cape Coral (SW FL coast) and I haven't seen rain in many weeks. Sandy brought us nothing but days of wind, unfortunately. Since we could really use the rain, it's kinda hard to believe "William" will get this far... assuming he ever even made up in the first place.
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358. yoboi
Quoting ScottLincoln:


Using different reference periods may cause confusion as far as "below/above average" is concerned or anomalies, but it doesn't change trends or conclusions made from the data when put on consistent baselines.



.33 warmer?
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
357. VR46L
Quoting FunnelVortex:


Note the high over the Atlantic and the strong low over Canada.

If this is correct, then that would send "William" right into... oh dear...
lol by 174hrs its a fish in the mid Atlantic.....

Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6842
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Warming didn't start in earnest till the late 70's.

Convenient since the Satellite data got launched in 1979.

Hmmm. Makes ya wonder, don't it?


So, wait... you are actually going to argue that the usage of satellite-derived temperature data has introduced a warming bias to the trends? That's a new one.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3172
Quoting yonzabam:
315

I see the WMO is using the 1969-90 period as a reference. That's irritating. Others, such as NASA, still use the 1951-80 period, which is more sensible, as the world didn't really start to warm in earnest until the late 70s.

It's only going to cause confusion if different organizations use different reference periods. Moreover, if you keep moving the reference period forward by ten years, as has been the tradition in climatology, the significance of current global temperature appears understated.


Using different reference periods may cause confusion as far as "below/above average" is concerned or anomalies, but it doesn't change trends or conclusions made from the data when put on consistent baselines.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3172
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Warming didn't start in earnest till the late 70's.

Convenient since the Satellite data got launched in 1979.

Hmmm. Makes ya wonder, don't it?


JMO, but I think the Clean Air Act had a lot more to do with the rapid increase in warming after the 70's than the satellite data did. All the sulfur particles were reflecting solar radiation cooling the planet.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting yonzabam:


It'll be the UK Met Office forecast. But, you're right - they should have given us their source and it would be good journalism to get a quote from a Met Office spokesman.

This is the official longer-range forecast from the UK Met Office issued today:

UK Outlook for Friday 14 Dec 2012 to Friday 28 Dec 2012:
As is usual, there are uncertainties in the forecast for this period. However, there are signs that north or north westerly winds may be quite frequent across the UK. So, on balance, colder than average conditions are likely to continue, with a risk of frost and fog, and an increased risk of some snow in places. There are also some indications that the weather may become drier than during the first half of December.
Updated: 1144 on Thu 29 Nov 2012

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/uk_forecas t_weather.html

Doesn't seem to indicate the same information as the news article, just indicates that below average temperatures are favored over that ~15 day period. That's a far cry from "coldest winter (~90 day period) in 100yrs."
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3172
Update to the US winter outlook.

"The lack of an El Niño or a La Niña event heading into winter usually means less predictable U.S. winter climate conditions and is one reason why the areas for well-above- or well-below-average temperature or precipitation this winter in the updated outlook are smaller than what was issued back in October."
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5961
Quoting AussieStorm:<
......
Ambulance Victoria says it has received eight reports of children being left unattended in cars.
......

With all due respect to every reader and their circumstances in life, if we don't individually make a commitment to do all we can to reduce our fossil fuel usage, we are guilty of leaving our descendents on an uninhabitable planet.

And when you get down to it, morally, how different is that from leaving the kids in the car?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TomballTXPride:

You almost sound excited about it... Why?
Actually my tone was met to be casual/sarcastic.I put a exclamation mark at the end because rumors can start flying around the blog and as soon as a event/situation doesn't end up happening it makes the person who said it look like a fool.
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Quoting plutorising:
test
The blog is working ;).Don't worry their is still people out here the blog isn't completely dead yet.Gotta keep the fire going!
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yay just figured out how to ignore trolls.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 80
Current Jet Stream..




Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6779
Quoting FunnelVortex:


Note the high over the Atlantic and the strong low over Canada.

If this is correct, then that would send "William" right into... oh dear...
I can't even imagine a storm this late in the year running into Florida.Would be very strange..well Florida got hit early in the year..might as well also get hit late in the year..This rumor wasn't from me!.
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I was hoping my post would get the blog going again...
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test
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 80
Quoting washingtonian115:
The GFS has gone mad!.It will be making many Floridians/east coasters nervous with William.However I'am skeptical and I give about a..15% chance this will actually occur.


Note the high over the Atlantic and the strong low over Canada.

If this is correct, then that would send "William" right into... oh dear...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
315

I see the WMO is using the 1969-90 period as a reference. That's irritating. Others, such as NASA, still use the 1951-80 period, which is more sensible, as the world didn't really start to warm in earnest until the late 70s.

It's only going to cause confusion if different organizations use different reference periods. Moreover, if you keep moving the reference period forward by ten years, as has been the tradition in climatology, the significance of current global temperature appears understated.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting FunnelVortex:


The GFS has gone mad!.It will be making many Floridians/east coasters nervous with William.However I'am skeptical and I give about a..15% chance this will actually occur.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ScottLincoln:


Odd thing is, they do a very poor job sourcing where the forecast for "-20C in December or January" comes from, as well as where the claim of "coldest winter in 100 years" comes from. Probably shouldn't give it much credit until it can be sourced better.


It'll be the UK Met Office forecast. But, you're right - they should have given us their source and it would be good journalism to get a quote from a Met Office spokesman.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Xyrus2000:


Apparently someone thinks this board is full of gullible idiots. There are several things that give this away as fake right away.
Quoting Xyrus2000:


Apparently someone thinks this board is full of gullible idiots. There are several things that give this away as fake right away.
Looked real to me. I rarely play any lotto games tho.
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Quoting pcola57:


Yeah I hear ya..
But I gotta say this has been a year of weird weather..so just maybe you'll get your wish.. :)
Well I just hope it's cold so it can feel more like winter.If memory serves me correctly I think last christmas we had temps in the 50's or 60's.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The odds of having snow on christmas is 20% out of 100.The last time we saw the white stuff on the ground was back in 2009.On 12/25/09 it was a wet christmas.It was rain instead of snow because temps had stayed into the 40's for most of the week.


Yeah I hear ya..
But I gotta say this has been a year of weird weather..so just maybe you'll get your wish.. :)
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6779
.

(SPC Day4-8 removed)
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Quoting Bielle:


Those are the numbers all right. If the ticket is a) yours and b) real, I am surprised you are not shaking too much to type.
How much was the prize money Bielle
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Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6779
Quoting KoritheMan:
At the risk of awakening the conspiracy theorists, I'm going to seriously begin considering that climate change may be significantly altering Atlantic hurricanes if we do not get a major hurricane strike the lower 48 in the next five years. However, any such claim requires careful research, and changes in the behavior in the size/strength of hurricanes is still very poorly understood without climate change thrown into the mix.


Take a step back... it requires more than a few more years of something simply "odd" like this before it probably means something. But as you said, it needs research to see if anything really is changing, let alone to indicate what might be causing it.

You could do a little bit of this research yourself. Count up the numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes making landfall in the US by decade. Then count up the totals for tropical storms and hurricanes basin-wide by decade. Make the appropriate adjustments (the Landsea approximations indicated by Dr. Masters may be adequate). Then compare the basin-wide decade numbers to the landfall decade numbers.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3172
Quoting pcola57:
You might get your snow Wash by Xmas..
I was looking at the maps posted yesterday and (of course thats waaay far out..) you will have the precip in place and cold air..just timing is all..
And yes the blog is slow..But some of us are here..!!
The odds of having snow on christmas is 20% out of 100.The last time we saw the white stuff on the ground was back in 2009.On 12/25/09 it was a wet christmas.It was rain instead of snow because temps had stayed into the 40's for most of the week.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.