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

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

Share this Blog
46
+

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

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: 175 - 125

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18Blog Index

PG&E‏@PGE4Me

#CentralCoast Outage Update (2 PM): Monterey County – 700; #SantaCruz County – 2,500; San Benito County – 190; Central Coast Total – 3,390
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
PG&E‏@PGE4Me

#BayArea Outage Update (2 PM): North Bay – 40; #EastBay – 380; #SF – 30; Peninsula – 190; South Bay – 730 Bay Area Total – 1,370 #CAWx
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jedkins01:
Just read from the NWS this November is going down as one of the driest months ever in Central Florida, how weird after having over 40 inches of rain June-August alone...


It's been an all-or-nothing season here. May, June, and August were well above normal - especially June and August. Those two months yielded almost 40" of rain alone in my area. .19" in November and that'll more than likely be the final tally.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StAugustineFL:


Hope this works.

Link
Yes it works! Thank you so much!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Just read from the NWS this November is going down as one of the driest months ever in Central Florida, how weird after having over 40 inches of rain June-August alone...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I'm getting tired of cheering on a storm to become Valerie. Let's see how this one goes...







Well.. 2012 began early, might as well end late.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Luisport:
Can you post a link please?


Hope this works.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm getting tired of cheering on a storm to become Valerie. Let's see how this one goes...





Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JustPlantIt:
Ignoring people puts a blinder on... Science is ever evolving. To silence that, you quit evolving and understanding.  AND learning... weather your ideas or someone elses.

If the alternative is leaving, ignore is probably preferable.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxchaser97:

First, Sandy will be upgraded to a major hurricane. Second, one could make the tropical vs non-tropical argument on Sandy being retired. I think though she will be retired. It is iffy, to me, whether Isaac will be retired or not.


Sandy did significant damage, over 30 billion, while tropical the day of landfall. Sandy was also among the top 5 most destructive hurricanes to ever hit Cuba. 100% chance Sandy's gone. That, and all the damage to the United States is counting towards Sandy from what I can see, making it the 2nd most destructive hurricane ever.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StAugustineFL:


Just an FYI - Shaun Tanner has a nice write up on the west coast storm under the member blogs section. a good soaking is in store for the area.
Can you post a link please?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting bappit:

Put them on ignore.
Ignoring people puts a blinder on... Science is ever evolving. To silence that, you quit evolving and understanding.  AND learning... weather your ideas or someone elses.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
163. VR46L
Quoting washingtonian115:
The doc said this for the 2005 atlantic hurricane season "This is the 2005 hurricane season.Their is no rules".Well the same can be said for this season as the storms have been very strange.It's like the ones who didn't originate from the tropics turned out to be some of the strongest of the season.


Look at Chris ,Gordon ,Kirk and Michael all formed north of normal and were the pretty ones .Nadine who just refused to died .Alberto and Beryl formed off Season and then there is the very weird and horrendous Sandy....Its been a strange season and I dont know if its completely over yet

Pic of my favourite Michael

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Uh oh.... this is getting serious.

CLIMATE CHANGE THREATENS FRENCH TRUFFLE
Drier summers are killing the prized black truffle that grows on oak and hazelnut trees.

Wed Nov 28, 2012 09:30 AM ET

Scientists said on Tuesday they had proof that climate change was hitting the Perigord black truffle, a delight of gourmets around the world.


http://news.discovery.com/earth/climate-change-ki lling-truffle-121128.html


Oh my dear heavens...Biff, Tad, Muffy...a Perrier and a BMW...quickly!

OK...tongue out of cheek ;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxgeek723:


I don't personally believe that but actually some people would make such a claim.

Yeah Jose did. For maybe 45 minutes. The NHC would have laughed at the prospect of naming that thing back in the 80s.

Oh well, times have changed.

It is not the criteria that has changed, but the technology has became more advanced allowing for easier detection of storms.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Good morning Bopha
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
Quoting imipak:

Put them on ignore.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Luisport:
ABC7 News‏@abc7newsBayArea

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has cancelled the Wind Advisory for the Bay Area. #BayAreaRain


Just an FYI - Shaun Tanner has a nice write up on the west coast storm under the member blogs section. a good soaking is in store for the area.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


If you can't handle being debated with, just how well informed are you?


IMO, there's debate that's part of the process of achieving and building on a consensus, and there's "debate" that functions to block consensus. I should think that, after the election campaigns just concluded, we'd all be heartily sick of the second type. Also IMO, though, a mistake many in the scientific community make is to assume that, since they have command of the data, they can safely ignore or dismiss those who do not. These people are perhaps ignorant of Amoeba's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"), to wit, "Sooner or later, all magic is black". Frustrating as it can be, those in the know need to remain engaged with everyone else, to persuade if possible, and, if not possible, at least to know which hand holds the knife.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxchaser97:

It is? Well thanks for pointing that out! Since Jose obviously didn't have sustained convection and tropical storm force winds. The NHC is just naming these storm just to raise storm count sometimes then too, to make it seem like the amount of tropical storms is increasing. ;)



I don't personally believe that but actually some people would make such a claim.

Yeah Jose did. For maybe 45 minutes. The NHC would have laughed at the prospect of naming that thing back in the 80s.

Oh well, times have changed.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3465

Quoting Luisport:
NWSBayArea‏@NWSBayArea

12 hour rainfall total from #Venado -- 2.00" #bayarearain
Seems awfully strong... 90 mph wind gust.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
ABC7 News‏@abc7newsBayArea

UPDATE: The National Weather Service has cancelled the Wind Advisory for the Bay Area. #BayAreaRain
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
NWSBayArea‏@NWSBayArea

12 hour rainfall total from #Venado -- 2.00" #bayarearain
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JustPlantIt:

Incredible... Is this a hurricane? What are they calling this?
winter storm. The specific case in north california it's a pineapple express
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxgeek723:


Um. Jose. Your argument is invalid.

It is? Well thanks for pointing that out! Since Jose obviously didn't have sustained convection and tropical storm force winds. The NHC is just naming these storm just to raise storm count sometimes then too, to make it seem like the amount of tropical storms is increasing. ;)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Quoting Luisport:

Jim Cantore‏@JimCantore

Squall Peak, CA had a peak gust to 90 mph within the last 2hours per @NWSMedford #CAwx


6 minJim Cantore‏@JimCantore

2 ESE Hayward, CA -- CHP reports areas of minor road flooding in several locations in Alameda county. #CAwx

7 minJim Cantore‏@JimCantore

5 NW Santa Cruz, CA -- Power lines down across Santa Cruz Mountains including a line down on highway 9 blocking traffic. #CAwx
Incredible... Is this a hurricane? What are they calling this?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

PG&E‏@PGE4Me

#CentralCoast Outage Update (1 PM): #Monterey County – 830; #SantaCruz County – 1,800; San Benito County – 190 #CentralCoast Total – 2,820

4 minPG&E‏@PGE4Me

#BayArea Outage Update (1 PM): #NorthBay – 50; #EastBay – 480; #SF – 60; Peninsula – 850; South Bay – 180; #BayArea Total – 1,620 #CAWx
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Doppler22:
I have a feeling Isaac will be retired....
For Me:
Sandy: 99% chance
Isaac: 60% chance

First, Sandy will be upgraded to a major hurricane. Second, one could make the tropical vs non-tropical argument on Sandy being retired. I think though she will be retired. It is iffy, to me, whether Isaac will be retired or not.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxchaser97:

Uhhh....what? The NHC hasn't lowered their standards and every named storm deserved to be a named storm.


Um. Jose. Your argument is invalid.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3465
Quoting biff4ugo:
It is none-more-overcast here in north central Florida but neither the Satellite layer nor Google Earth show a wisp of clouds over here. Thick dark low stratus clouds with no rain. I expect the radar is blank but shouldn't the satellite layer show something?
???
Someone remind me where the water vapor animations are please.!


You're in my general area. Been socked in with a low stratus deck all day with temps in the mid 50's. A far cry from the upper 70's of yesterday.

Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxgeek723:
I believe the level of activity in 2010-2012 season was similar to 2003-2005. The NHC seems to have lowered their standards a bit as to what constitutes a name recently, leading to a slight inflation of storms. However, no one can deny the last few seasons have been very active.

Question though. Why does this only seem to be happening in the Atlantic?

Uhhh....what? The NHC hasn't lowered their standards and every named storm deserved to be a named storm.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I have a feeling Isaac will be retired....
For Me:
Sandy: 99% chance
Isaac: 60% chance
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Laura Skirde‏@LauraSkirdeWx

Winds gusting to 35 mph right now in #Lincoln . Gusts currently 25-30 mph in #Sacramento . 20-25 mph in #Stockton #Modesto #Auburn
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Rain totals this morning: http://twitter.com/LauraSkirdeWx/status/2738958071 22558977/photo/1
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxgeek723:


Isaac was a billion dollar storm. Trust me, he's gone.

The WMO is becoming more strict on declaring storms retired. With $2.3 billion in damage caused by Isaac, it'll be a close call of whether or not it's off the list for good.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
My local news paper(The Washington post) has done an interesting write up on this years hurricane season.They beleive Isaac and to no Surprise Sandy will be the only storms retired this year.I'm still skeptical on Isaac though..


Isaac was a billion dollar storm. Trust me, he's gone.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3465
Thanks DocND!

I guess the wondermap satellite layer doesn't overlay well or work on low level stuff, or something.

I'm still surprised no one commented on my observation that there is something like an 85% chance of observing a 1 in 157 year event like the last three years during a 135 year record without climate change or any additional factors.
That seems to argue that there may not be additional factors like climate change rather than supporting it as a 1 in 5000 year event might.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Jim Cantore‏@JimCantore

Squall Peak, CA had a peak gust to 90 mph within the last 2hours per @NWSMedford #CAwx


6 minJim Cantore‏@JimCantore

2 ESE Hayward, CA -- CHP reports areas of minor road flooding in several locations in Alameda county. #CAwx

7 minJim Cantore‏@JimCantore

5 NW Santa Cruz, CA -- Power lines down across Santa Cruz Mountains including a line down on highway 9 blocking traffic. #CAwx
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
The people of the Philippines need to be making preparations for a typhoon that could be hitting in about a week. Bopha is refusing to strengthen, causing it to go more west than originally thought. Today's 12z Euro run brought it right through the country, while the GFS kept it just offshore. With it's sheared state right now though the odds of a westerly track go up, it's starting to look more likely than not that the Philippines will see direct impacts.

Center is not well aligned with the deep convection right now:

That storm looks better than half of the ones in the Atlantic this year..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The people of the Philippines need to be making preparations for a typhoon that could be hitting in about a week. Bopha is refusing to strengthen, causing it to go more west than originally thought. Today's 12z Euro run brought it right through the country, while the GFS kept it just offshore. With it's sheared state right now though the odds of a westerly track go up, it's starting to look more likely than not that the Philippines will see direct impacts.

Center is not well aligned with the deep convection right now:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I believe the level of activity in 2010-2012 season was similar to 2003-2005. The NHC seems to have lowered their standards a bit as to what constitutes a name recently, leading to a slight inflation of storms. However, no one can deny the last few seasons have been very active.

Question though. Why does this only seem to be happening in the Atlantic?
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3465
The doc said this for the 2005 atlantic hurricane season "This is the 2005 hurricane season.Their is no rules".Well the same can be said for this season as the storms have been very strange.It's like the ones who didn't originate from the tropics turned out to be some of the strongest of the season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormPro:
shot once, stabbed/cut twice...both pretty high on the suckage meter for sure! 56 and sunny now in NOLA


Uh, I like you StormPro, but I do not think I will hang out with you too much. You seem to attract too many potentially lethal objects into your general area. :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
Polar Vortex is growing fast. It is my belief that it will be very stormy soon for a lot of folks.


I sure hope this brings some rain or snow to the Plains - the drought is getting worse.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
I was once visiting a friends apartment complex, over 25 years ago, and there was a commotion by the pool...A woman passed us yelling out "Jesus, Jesus" and when we got to the pool, someone was doing CPR on a child (about 10). Here eyes were dilated and "black" and folks were crying. Paramedics arrived about 5 minutes later and were able to revive the child..........That woman who passed us was her Mother.......I will never forget that day.

Anyone who lives near the Coast, or frequents beaches and waterways (or owns pools) needs to make sure that their children learn to swim almost as soon as they learn to walk.
Absolutely correct... I live 100 yards from the Intracoastal Waterway, and have a pool. My grandchildren both are excellent swimmers.....ALSO, for everyone that has a pool, if your child or grandchild won't answer your call, whether they are playing "hide & Seek" or not...The first place you must look is in the pool...ALWAYS FIRST....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


I'll be here to be pleased looking


tr, the Doc has a photo section that is the finest I have ever perused. Extraordinary is a good word. Over a million images, it takes you everywhere. I have added places to my personal bucket list from things I have seen there. Some fabulous photographers, and then folks like me, but that adds up as even "I" can capture a worthy image once in a while.

Here is the Main Gallery

After awhile, you become familiar with the photographers and can sometimes tell it is theirs before you see the credit. Most have albums and some go back years.. great stuff.

sample;



Uploaded by: thunderweather — Sunday November 25, 2012 — Sierra Nevada, CA

on the summit of Mt. Morgan after climbing up and camping a night on top, a truly magical place
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting biff4ugo:
It is none-more-overcast here in north central Florida but neither the Satellite layer nor Google Earth show a wisp of clouds over here. Thick dark low stratus clouds with no rain. I expect the radar is blank but shouldn't the satellite layer show something?
???
Someone remind me where the water vapor animations are please.!


Hi Biff,
Certainly should appear on Visible or RGB sat images... Water vapor rather deceiving on low level stratus.

Gotta run, good day all!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JustPlantIt:

Shhhhh, I'm just a silly girl.) Thanks for the update, still looks awfully bad for Northern CA. See a lot of people commenting on swimming, hope CA does not have to do that this week!


ohh sorry.... I didn't know girl.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14870
Quoting imipak:
You know, I'm done with reading the comments on this blog. Whilst there's a lot of interesting weather-related material, the constant braying of the herds of anti-science morons just makes me angry, I'm sorry to say. I've got nearly 20 people on Ignore after only being here a month, and still the stupid comes. Folks, if you disagree with AGW, post the doi for your paper in Nature, Science, or JGR. If you haven't published the stunning breakthrough you thought up in your bath last night, please, please, PLEASE, just STFU and GTFO. Ignorance isn't a crime -- there's plenty of stuff *I'M* ignorant about -- but wilfully refusing to accept that you're ignorant about something when others take the time to explain things carefully to you, over and over again,.. that really IS criminal. (I'm tempted to add that come the revolution, anti-science loonies will be the first ones up against the wall, but I'm afraid that's just wishful thinking.)

Thanks to the intelligent / knowledgeable / interesting people for making it good enough to make me persist this long. I'm off to read http://earth.geology.yale.edu/~avf5/teaching/Files _pdf/globalwarming_hadleycenter.pdf properly.

PS Morons: you may also wish to reflect upon the fact that mindless stupidity like yours reflects very badly on your country. Stop playing up to your stereotype!

PPS Admin / mod, apologies if you have to take time out to delete this.
Sure gonna miss you
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
NWSBayArea‏@NWSBayArea

Weather observation at 1842 ft near Los Gatos - 75 MPH gust last hour. Winds will diminish this afternoon. #bayarearain #sfweather #losgatos
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


If you can't handle being debated with, just how well informed are you?


trolling is not debate.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 175 - 125

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18Blog 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

Scattered Clouds
76 °F
Scattered Clouds