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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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


....da heck???


Me and Gustav... we like to do intimate things.
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Quoting Civicane49:
The 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season in 4.5 Minutes


4-1/2 minutes of pure amazement - and then came Sandy. Thanks for posting this.
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Quoting wxgeek723:


I mentally prep myself just in case, if that counts, lol.


ohh thanks for mentioning it... now we are almost in the apocalypse month...

less than 20 days left for the world...lol
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting wxgeek723:


100% agree, I'm just saying if we're going to name storms they should at least be decent.


attend the WMO meeting this spring...you could request a name replacement for Sandy and maybe Isaac and Ernesto...lol
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting NJcat3cane:
kinda off topic but does anyone on here also doomsday prep?..


I mentally prep myself just in case, if that counts, lol.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3650
Quoting KoritheMan:


Probably because I'm biased toward Gustav. You know, being hit with it and all.


....da heck???
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting TropicTraveler:


Whatever we call it, it will still be what it is. Sweet little Sandy was false advertising. What would a good name for her have been? Who is the worst and most destructive female in mythology?


100% agree, I'm just saying if we're going to name storms they should at least be decent.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3650
Quoting wxmod:
Airport clouds covering several states in the midwest today. MODIS satellite photo. If you didn't see the bright blue sky, you may have seen the jet trails. Airport clouds cost you money, in raised winter heating bills.



There was a significant amount of natural water vapor over the Midwest today. Look:



Can you share the location and approximate time of the image you posted?
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Quoting wxgeek723:
A lot of the names on the 2013 and 2014 lists are seriously awful, I pray those are the ones that spin out to sea. Nature's been very good so far in making sure most of the ridiculously named storms don't hit land, but with more and more weird names those odds are going to go down.


Whatever we call it, it will still be what it is. Sweet little Sandy was false advertising. What would a good name for her have been? Who is the worst and most destructive female in mythology?
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kinda off topic but does anyone on here also doomsday prep?..
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


for Ike's Ian?


Probably because I'm biased toward Gustav. You know, being hit with it and all.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


o_O

I like the 2014 list.


I used to until they threw Gonzalo on the list...
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3650
Quoting KoritheMan:


o_O

I like the 2014 list.


for Ike's Ian?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting wxchaser97:

The last time the GFS showed Valerie it never materialized and I am skeptical that it will this time. Only time will tell though.
I remember that system the NHC didn`t even put it as an invest as it stay cold core. how many days are away for suppose Valerie to develop?
Member Since: October 15, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 4455
711. wxmod
Airport clouds covering several states in the midwest today. MODIS satellite photo. If you didn't see the bright blue sky, you may have seen the jet trails. Airport clouds cost you money, in raised winter heating bills.

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710. vanwx
Quoting yoboi:


i got banned within in 2 min the other night when i submitted some data it was a big taboo

What was your data? or a link? Please
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Quoting wxgeek723:
A lot of the names on the 2013 and 2014 lists are seriously awful, I pray those are the ones that spin out to sea. Nature's been very good so far in making sure most of the ridiculously named storms don't hit land, but with more and more weird names those odds are going to go down.


o_O

I like the 2014 list.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Evening everyone. I watched video of an Italian tornado today which looked very odd with tiled roofs and a hilly countryside. I've wondered why we don't see news reports of multiple tornados doing severe damage in other countries and that was my question tonight. Then I thought, Ah Ha! I'll look in Wikipedia for worldwide tornados, and there they were, waterspouts and all, certainly in many areas. My failure to do a little advance research has given me a humbling learning moment. And the general topic today and the melting ice is making me very uneasy. I saw an arctic cruise advertised today. Can we go see the north pole now in a cruise ship with all the amenities? Seems surreal.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


you don't like the names or what?


Lmao no. I really don't.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3650
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wxgeek723:
A lot of the names on the 2013 and 2014 lists are seriously awful, I pray those are the ones that spin out to sea. Nature's been very good so far in making sure most of the ridiculously named storms don't hit land, but with more and more weird names those odds are going to go down.


you don't like the names or what?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
A lot of the names on the 2013 and 2014 lists are seriously awful, I pray those are the ones that spin out to sea. Nature's been very good so far in making sure most of the ridiculously named storms don't hit land, but with more and more weird names those odds are going to go down.
Member Since: August 28, 2008 Posts: 79 Comments: 3650
702. vanwx
669
Quoting AussieStorm:

People there are just not aware. I have been there 4 times. Last time we had a TS pass by and it dumped about 4inches in 10minutes, I have never seen rain like it ever before. The street flooded in minutes of the rain starting. the street was under 2ft of water after 20mins. We had people grabbing there stuff and bringing it into our house cause our house is built 4ft above street level. we must of had 30-50 people in our house. it was crazy. 2hrs later the water had gone and the clean up was underway.


Aussie, I can't remember where I read it but someone building on Long Island decided to go over-code and raise their warehouse 4',it added $50k to the project but was the only Sandy survivor and the base for rescue operations. I keep wondering about about the infrastructure rebuild; will they make the same so it fails again? Or put parks in down low? Or spend billions on surge gates?
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Quoting wxchaser97:

I think Sandy will be upgraded to major hurricane.


you as well as many others remember this...right?
so it would really happen


I remember this so well.
NHC WORST FAIL!!!
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting wxchaser97:

The last time the GFS showed Valerie it never materialized and I am skeptical that it will this time. Only time will tell though.


Agreed.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Its getting that look that most system take for RI to take place.

Still too far south I think, but what do I know?
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6093
Quoting Civicane49:


That system will likely have subtropical characteristics as it is asymmetric but is a warm core system. Though, I still have some doubts that it will become Valerie.


The last time the GFS showed Valerie it never materialized and I am skeptical that it will this time. Only time will tell though.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7958
BULLETIN - GUAM
TROPICAL STORM BOPHA (26W) ADVISORY NUMBER 18
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TIYAN GU WP262012
200 PM CHST FRI NOV 30 2012

...TROPICAL STORM BOPHA (26W) INTENSIFYING...
...TROPICAL STORM BOPHA TRACKING TOWARDS THE REPUBLIC OF PALAU...

A TYPHOON WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT FOR NGULU IN YAP STATE AND KOROR
AND KAYANGEL IN THE REPUBLIC OF PALAU.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT FOR YAP ISLAND IN YAP STATE
AND SONSOROL IN THE REPUBLIC OF PALAU.

A TYPHOON WATCH MEANS THAT TYPHOON CONDITIONS INCLUDING SUSTAINED
WINDS GREATER THAN 73 MPH ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN 48 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS...
INCLUDING DAMAGING WINDS OF 39 TO 73 MPH...ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN 48
HOURS.

AT 100 PM CHST...0300Z...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM BOPHA WAS
LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 3.6 DEGREES NORTH AND LONGITUDE 145.7 DEGREES
EAST.

THIS IS ABOUT 650 MILES EAST-SOUTHEAST OF NGULU
660 MILES SOUTHEAST OF YAP
815 MILES EAST-SOUTHEAST OF KOROR PALAU AND KAYANGEL
935 MILES EAST OF SONSOROL.

TROPICAL STORM BOPHA IS NOW MOVING WEST AT 11 MPH. A GRADUAL TURN TO
THE WEST-NORTHWEST WITH LITTLE CHANGE IN FORWARD SPEED IS EXPECTED
THROUGH TONIGHT.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO 65 MPH. TROPICAL STORM
BOPHA IS EXPECTED TO INTENSIFY TODAY...POSSIBLY BECOMING A TYPHOON
BY TONIGHT
. TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 75 MILES FROM THE CENTER.

REPEATING THE 100 PM POSITION...3.6 DEGREES NORTH LATITUDE AND 145.7
DEGREES EAST LONGITUDE...MOVING WEST AT 11 MPH WITH MAXIMUM
SUSTAINED WINDS OF 65 MPH.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
How can Bopha strengthens so close to the equator??

This basing has a bunch of surprises
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting wxchaser97:
Of course, the 00z GFS continues to develop Valerie. I'm still not sure we will get development out of it even though it is only a couple days away.
60hrs:


That system will likely have subtropical characteristics as it is expected to be asymmetric but is a warm core system. Though, I still have some doubts that it will become Valerie.

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Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
well, I'm gonna go ahead for the list of 2013
some are bolded for a reason...

Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, Wendy

Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Of course, the 00z GFS continues to develop Valerie. I'm still not sure we will get development out of it even though it is only a couple days away.
60hrs:
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7958
Quoting wxchaser97:

I think Sandy will be upgraded to major hurricane.


I also believe that Sandy was briefly a major hurricane when it hit Cuba. I expect an upgrade.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Im not too familiar with the tropics of wpac...

are the waters warm enough all year long to support cyclones??? How about the upper atmosphere conditions?
who cal tell me?

Waters are warm all year round, well and truly enough to support a TC and that heat goes down deep. Atmosphericly only the central WPAC is the only area where a TC can form due to strong cold fronts sweeping down out of China.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


cool...
I sooo can't wait for NHC Sandy analysis...

I think Sandy will be upgraded to major hurricane.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7958
Quoting allancalderini:
Its getting that look that most system take for RI to take place.


Indeed. Bopha may intensify quickly once the inner core is solidified. Environmental conditions remain quite favorable for Bopha to intensify.
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Quoting wxchaser97:
My Tropical Cyclone Report on Tropical Storm Alberto (AL012012)


cool...
I sooo can't wait for NHC Sandy analysis...
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
My Tropical Cyclone Report on Tropical Storm Alberto (AL012012)
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7958
Im not too familiar with the tropics of wpac...

are the waters warm enough all year long to support cyclones??? How about the upper atmosphere conditions?
who cal tell me?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting Civicane49:


Its getting that look that most system take for RI to take place.
Member Since: October 15, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 4455
683. DDR
If the gfs verifies,could be some serious flooding issues for Trinidad and Tobago,6-10 inches is shown by the gfs
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30/0230 UTC 3.7N 145.8E T4.0/4.0 BOPHA -- West Pacific
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681. vanwx
Quoting PensacolaDoug:




Media Matters??!!

Bunch of left-wing haters.

LMAO!


Thanks, I went and read it. Seems pretty good to me; oil and coal companies say there is no concensus, no climate problem and they say it with giant wads of cash that they don't pay tax on.
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680. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Quoting Civicane49:


That would be a problem for people in the Philippines unaware of the cyclone unless PAGASA alerted them way advanced. However, their friends and relatives from other countries can alert them if they are aware of the storm. People in the provinces can find satellite images and the forecast of the storm's path from different weather sites other than PAGASA.


tweeted by PAGASA

Tropical Cyclone Update: 29/NOV/12, There is no tropical cyclone existing within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR). However, all are advised to monitor updates especially a weather disturbance seen approximately 2,400 km East Southeast of Mindanao.
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Bopha is probably a typhoon.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32524
Quoting MidMOwx:


I think it's time to put the beer back into the refrigerator.




Can we stop the insults & innuendo please.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:

of wow.... whoops!

So is it really doing it now?


Bopha has been trying to maintain a ragged eye throughout much of the day. It should be a typhoon very soon if not one right now.

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Quoting MidMOwx:


I think it's time to put the beer back into the refrigerator.

18Z GFS @ 204 hours. Might get another chill in my part of the country.

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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.