The global hurricane season of 2005: was it unusual?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:12 PM GMT on January 20, 2006

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The Hurricane Season of 2005 in the Atlantic was unprecedented in its fury. Not only were records set for most tropical storms and hurricanes--2005 also saw three of the six most intense hurricanes on record. Was the rest of the globe also experiencing unusual levels of tropical cyclone activity? To answer this question, I have plotted in Table 1 the 2005 statistics, plus averages and all-time records, for the six ocean basins that experience tropical cyclones. Unfortunately, reliable records of tropical cyclone intensity in the Northwestern Pacific and Southern Hemisphere ocean basins begin in about 1987, so there is not much data available to do comparisons of how unusual the global hurricane season of 2005 was.


Table 1. Global tropical cyclone statistics for 2005 (in bold black, or green if a new record). Averages are given in parentheses. These averages are for the 1987-2004 period (18 years). All-time records are in red, and are for the entire time period data is available (1851-2004 for the Atlantic, 1949-2004 for the Northeast Pacific, and 1945-2004 for the other ocean basins).

Globally, the total number of tropical storms and hurricanes in 2005 was about 10% higher than average--97 were recorded, which is the second-most ever observed (the record is 101, observed in 1992). If one counts the Southern Hemisphere storms that occurred September through December 2004 as being part of the 2005 hurricane season, 2005 had 101 named storms, tying it for first place. Note that reliable records of total number of storms probably begin in the mid-1970s.

Besides the Atlantic, only the Southwest Pacific had an unusual 2005 hurricane season. There were five Category 4 and 5 storms in the ocean region east of Australia--which beat the old record of four storms. None of the 2005 cyclones caused loss of life or heavy damage. Category 5 Cyclone Meena merely brushed Raratonga in the Cook Islands, Category 4 Cyclone Ingrid hit a sparsely populated area of northern Australia, and the other three intense cyclones stayed out at sea. The other four ocean basins had rather ordinary seasons in 2005, with near average numbers of named storms, hurricanes, and intense hurricanes.

One rather amazing feature that stands out in 2005. For the first time on record, the Atlantic had more named storms than any other ocean basin. I thought I'd never see that happen! Atlantic storms, which usually make up just 11% of the global total, accounted for 28% of the global total in 2005. So while nature did indeed go berserk during the Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2005, the rest of the oceans did not, fortunately.

Next week: A 2005 paper in Science magazine presented evidence that the global number of Category 4 and 5 hurricane is increasing, due to global warming. Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State has posted a critique of the findings, and claims there is no evidence that the global number of Category 4 and 5 hurricane is increasing. I'll present an in-depth analysis of the arguments pro and con.

Jeff Masters

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63. AySz88
6:56 AM GMT on January 24, 2006
Looks like the shear is starting to choke around it. As long as the area of low shear keeps contracting, it won't be able to do anything before being overtaken.
Member Since: August 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
62. observer12
8:29 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
hey all - nearly 1.7 inches in central TX yesterday! - it really helped, but I wonder how much potential infiltration we lost since the ground was so compacted and dry...
61. TampaSteve
7:54 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
TPaul wrote:

"Apparently tunnels do have the staying power of an Atlantic Hurricane during the 2005 season. Just when you think they are dead they come back. All pun intended :-}"

Perhaps we could name the tunnels Epsilon and Zeta...;-)
60. gippgig
6:21 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
Impressive convection in the NW Caribbean but I see no circulation at all & it'll probably move over land before anything can develop.
Member Since: December 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 64
59. TPaul
5:53 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
Apparently tunnels do have the staying power of an Atlantic Hurricane during the 2005 season. Just when you think they are dead they come back. All pun intended :-}
Member Since: May 2, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 111
58. rwdobson
4:36 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
colby: "Humans are unique in that we do have the capacity to destroy all life on this planet."

No we don't. We can certainly alter the balance of life, and we could probably make it uninhabitable (or at least very unpleasant) for ourselves, but we can't destroy all life. The microbes would survive, at the very least. And so would lots of macro-organisms as well.
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1574
57. ForecasterColby
4:01 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
A reminder: Upper-level shear doesn't bother storms that formed from pre-existing lows (Delta, Epsilon, Zeta), but this wave will have a *lot* of trouble with it.
56. HurricaneMyles
3:37 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
That is a pretty decent looking wave and if projections hold true then the shear will only decrease. This has a decent chance to develope a suface low and might have a chance at a tropical storm. None of the models I can find are jumping on it but they do keep the low level shear light for the next few days. The upper level shear gets pretty fierce in 48 hours though, so this thing needs to get on its horse if it's going to give it a shot.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
55. ForecasterColby
3:23 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
Woops, here's the shear map:

54. ForecasterColby
3:21 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
The wave is looking very good, and there's a rouge break in the shear - this would be totally insane, but maybe...





*resists the need to roll eyes* STOP SAYING NOTHING WILL FORM UNTIL NEXT YEAR!
53. 147257
11:40 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
for any forecast at the season of 2006 read this

http://forecast.mssl.ucl.ac.uk/shadow/forecasts.html

this site has a excellent forecast last year it predicted the above active of hurricane season 2005

just see it for yourself
Member Since: August 2, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 68
52. gippgig
9:39 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
The low is in the SW Caribbean but the convection is in the NW Caribbean... I don't think that'll work.
Member Since: December 5, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 64
51. Inyo
9:20 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
yeah really cold water offshore of a warm area tends to mean desert... you'd be trading hurricanes for horrible droughts
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 867
49. ProgressivePulse
4:40 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
Sorry not reclaimed but claimed. And the normal summer AM costal showers would turn into AM thunderstorms.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 4863
48. ProgressivePulse
4:33 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
HEADLINES. South Florida has reclaimed the FOG capital of the US. Cooler gulf stream, warmer air.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 4863
47. HurricaneMyles
4:13 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
BTW cyclonebuster, I bet even Emanuel, who created those formulas right, would say that they are not absolute and there are exceptions.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
46. ProgressivePulse
3:47 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
Cyclone and his tunnels, lol. I doubt a brief trip over cooler waters would have much of an impact. Let alone the waters on the other side which are significantly warmer. As far as the east coast goes, south florida would not see any impact, the gulf stream is very narrow and only a mile off the coast. As you travel north the gulf stream vears off the coast rather significantly. There is ample distance for the hurricane to gain back what it lost, if any, and may induce a strenthing trend into land due to the higher difference in water temps. Haven't looked at the gulf yet but I will.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 4863
45. Inyo
3:40 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
After stating that humans are causing global warming because we've emitted gases and the planet is warmer, you have the foolishness to blatantly contradict yourself.

did i say that? i don't remember doing that! The caribou thing was just silly and totally off topic. there's no way you can argue that oil pipelines beneifit caribou, unless they have lead to the local extinction of wolves or grizzlies.


Just think my tunnels would have prevented all major hurricanes in this graph.


no they wouldn't have! they were proposed in the gulf stream, which last time i checked isnt anywhere near Louisinana or Texas
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 867
44. F5
3:17 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
Hey everyone, we got some rain!...Woohoo :)...I hope everyone else that is experience drought conditions managed to get some too. I have no idea how much we got (guessing 1/2 inch), but we'll take anything. They key now will be to see if the winds stay low and it's followed up with more rain. Looks like a chance on Thurs, but too early to tell for sure.

I'm still praying for more!
43. HurricaneMyles
2:58 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
No I'm saying that, unless atmosweather can varify he calculated some other way, I believe that the calculation only took into account a storm forming under those conditions, not one that is already quite strong and transverses cooler water.

Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
40. HurricaneMyles
2:18 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
LOL cyclonebuster. That formula isn't everything. I wonder what the formula would have said Vince or Epsilon would be, probably non-existent. Either provide some facts besides what you've tried to prove before (which has already been proved wrong) or stop saying your tunnels will protect us, because right now you have nothing to support you besides principles that are heavily reduced and a formula that says how strong a storm SHOULD BE over certain temp water, which should have no relevance here because those storms are going over the colder water not forming there. Besides that you have a model that says your tunnels wont work, and none that say it will. You have no prototype that works, and you have no evidence of how much these things will cost to produce and maintain. Sorry but until you can add something besides "my tunnels will do this because I say so, but have nothing in my post to back it up" you really need to drop it.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
38. atmosweather
1:54 AM GMT on January 23, 2006
Lol cyclonebuster
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
35. dcw
11:53 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
"correlation does NOT imply causation"

Amusing. After stating that humans are causing global warming because we've emitted gases and the planet is warmer, you have the foolishness to blatantly contradict yourself.
Member Since: August 2, 2001 Posts: 2 Comments: 3
34. Inyo
10:38 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
oops, that first part was supposed to say "we are built up such that even a couple of degrees for 100 years will do our species a lot of damage"
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 867
33. Inyo
10:37 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
People, its not always about you. There are actions and reactions, period. And anyone who thinks that we as human beings can affect this earth are sadly mistaken. Sure, in one small area maybe for a very short period of time. But the earth will flush it down the drain in a very short(relative)time,100 years or so.
very true over the long run. for the history of the earth and life on earth, greenhouse warming is insignificant. however, we are built up such that even a couple of degrees for 100 years (very minor in the grand scheme of things).

also i dont like it when people use the 'we are insignificant' argument to justify environmental damage (not saying that you are doing this, but others do)... the thing is, yes, life on earth will go on after we die and become even more diverse after we die off. that doesnt mean we should ruin things now though, it will just decrease our quality of life and the amount of awesome, amazing stuff around us.

i do NOT believe we could destroy all life on the planet, ForecasterColby. A lot of my belief comes from trying to kill a small plant for work. It is called Yellow Star Thistle, Centaurea solsticialis.. it is a noxious weed.. and it is IMPOSSIBLE to kill. I seriously believe if we dropped a nuclear bomb for every 10 square miles of earth, the star thistle would still survive in the seed bank. it would laugh at the nuclear winter and come right back.

so say, roaches survive too, or rats. maybe a few coyotes. maybe coast live oak too.. ive seen oaks resprout after fires with 50+ foot flames came through. For 100 years, theres just a few sickly oaks, a bunch of ugly star thistle, some roaches. a handful of rabbits survive, and now there are a billion rabbits, eating the star thistle. Say a pack of coyotes survive in some forgotten corner of the desert. Nowe we have coyotes eating the rabbits.

In 1000 years we have star thistle species differentiating for mountains, valleys, deserts, wastelands, whatever. We have different rabbits eating the different types of star thistle. We have coyotes eating the rabbits.

in 100,000 years we have flying rabbits, star thistle trees, star thistle vines, giant roaches the size of cows, roaches that eat coyotes, coyotes that eat star thistle, extrememly intelligent coyotes that hunt in packs to bring down the cow sized roaches, exoskeletons and all. We've got tiny little rats that live in the thistle trees, big honkin rats that live on the thistle prairies, and aquatic rats that live in the lakes formed by the nuclear craters.

We've got what, 4 billion years until the sun blows up? It took billions of years to evolve multicellular life, and after that everything went REAL fast. Even if we managed to kill every animal on the surface of the earth, which i do not believe possible, we would have to find and explode EVERY undersea vent.. there are life forms that live on the vents that live totally independant of the sun or climate.

so yeah.. we have no chance of destroying all life. its just not possible.

as for the mars icecaps, its just the southern icecap that is shrinking. I think it has to do with the tilt of mars or the wind patterns on that planet.. i do not believe it is related to solar output although i could be wrong.

And it's too bad that the caribou heards are actually INCREASING after the construction of the Alaskan Pipeline.

TOTALLY irrelevant. and i am pretty sure the pipeline is not the reason for this. correlation does NOT imply causation. The numbers of pallid bats in the san gabriel moutnains have since the domestication of the potbellied pig.. does that mean potbellied pigs kill pallid bats?
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 867
32. TIPUPTOWNUSA
7:15 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
Earth's Global Warming caused by humans and machines?? I totally agree with Eeatherboysu. Can someone working with "Science" Magazine please explain
how it is then, that the polar caps on Mars are shrinking?
Last I looked, I havent seen any Martians racing around in SUV's burning up fossile fuels, so how can that be?
Oh, and how did the planet warm itself up getting us out of the last Ice Age? I suppose all those camp fires our ancestors had going precipitated that too. And it's too bad that the caribou heards are actually INCREASING after the construction of the Alaskan Pipeline. Go figure.
Member Since: January 18, 2003 Posts: 0 Comments: 12
31. HurricaneMyles
6:32 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
What he is saying is that we might destroy what we think is all life, but that it will be back. Give it a thousand, or a million years, and life will once again be flourishing on this planet; and he's absolutly correct. Life can surive far worse things then we give it credit for. We may ruin this planet so that we cannot surive, but other life forms will.
Member Since: January 12, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 827
30. ForecasterColby
6:14 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
I disagree, weatherboy. Humans are unique in that we do have the capacity to destroy all life on this planet.

By the way, La Nina is strengthening despite rapid cooling recently in the Atlantic.
29. weatherboyfsu
5:21 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
Thank you so much DR. MASTERS for enlightening all these global warming extremeist. Everybody wants to dramatize everything. People, its not always about you. There are actions and reactions, period. And anyone who thinks that we as human beings can affect this earth are sadly mistaken. Sure, in one small area maybe for a very short period of time. But the earth will flush it down the drain in a very short(relative)time,100 years or so. TO the earth, that is a blink of the eye. Our history of records is only a "blink of the eye". I know that saddens alot of people, but get over it. Im like everyone else and wants to make sure that we take good care of our only home and I also understand that we can not take it for granted. Just dont go over the edge. Just for you guys to think about. If you take all the hurricanes that have form on this planet since its formation, we have only document about(hypothetically) .0001 percent of them. AND, it could be lower than that. Nobody knows for sure. How old is the earth? How many storms form every year worldwide on average? The iceages we have had surely drop the number and there probably have been years with double the number. My point is........Mother nature reacts to the actions that we cannot manipulate no matter what you think. We have LITTLE POWER. We could destroy the whole earths landscape and in a blink of a eye it would be right back full of life in a blink of an eye, maybe 1000 years, maybe 2000 years, who knows. All the animals that have gone extinct on this planet out numbered the ones that are on here presently. Everything has a purpose and is natural.............Have a great day and I feel somewhat better.........Peace/out
Member Since: July 17, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1025
28. lightning10
4:58 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
Hi everyone its been a slow weekend for posting. I was wondering if the jet stream is still expected to take a dip into the first week of Febuary?

It looks like already the Ec modle is takeing the strom that is coming toward So Cal and moving it faster and weaker. GFS is also looking like the Ec. I would have to agree. One big reason is because if this big wind event comes in today like they think it will then it will dry the air out. Humidity will be pushed to the single digets. The storm will have a hard time dealing with that dry air. It will have to moisten the atmosphere up a lot before rain hits the ground.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630
27. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
3:01 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
My handle is a bit to type out. I'll know it's me with either FWB2T or just the FWB if noone else has that abbrievation. Heck, Most of the time when we are mailing thing to and from there snail mail we just write FWB on the envelope for the city. O};->>
Member Since: January 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 21
26. KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta
2:41 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
FtWaltonBch2Tucson mail for you
25. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
2:37 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
Yeah, that looks like it will be a good soaking rain for them. We still have high pressure just about centered over us here, but I'm glad that they are finally getting some rain. May it be as much as the ground can handle at one time and not a drop more.
Member Since: January 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 21
24. haydn
1:55 PM GMT on January 22, 2006
8:48 AM EST....Finally, rain in driest areas in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. There will definitely be more than .25 inches. Hope this starts the end of the dry spell.
23. Inyo
9:04 AM GMT on January 22, 2006
i used to live in torrance which is sheltered from most wind

and anything else of interest too.
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 867
22. CrazyC83
4:55 AM GMT on January 22, 2006
The "No tropical cyclones at this time" is traditionally an in-season mention. Are they planning on declaring hurricane season a year-round event?

We're only a few weeks from the low point; the coldest the waters will get all year.
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 142
21. haydn
4:29 AM GMT on January 22, 2006
May rain come to all who need it. ....
Great chart though I agree with the statement Progessivepulse has made about next season. The "Big dogs" may be coming. If one looks at the NHC website, it says "There are no tropical cyclones at this time." Usually it says the Atlantic season runs from June 1 to Nov 30. Are they thinking Alberto will come before June 1? We are in a weak La Nina event. This usually means favorable conditions for more storms. .... Just noticed something about rain. There's a good chance of rain coming for the drought area in TX, OK. Rain already falling at this moment in TX. (11:26 pm EST)
20. lightning10
12:39 AM GMT on January 22, 2006
Where I live it almost never gets windy. Its one of the wind protected areas. So I never pay attenchen to thoes high wind warnings/watches.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630
19. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
11:57 PM GMT on January 21, 2006
Sorry, accidently hit the "post comment" button when the cat jumped in my lap.

We do get quite a bit of rain (for here, anyways :) )from the winter fronts. Probably about 2-3" of our 7.8" yearly average comes from the winter fronts, rather than convective storms.

That's part of the reason I am so worried at the lack of rain... We're down by half our yearly average just for the last 5 months alone.
Member Since: January 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 21
18. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
11:52 PM GMT on January 21, 2006
We're at the tail end of our rainy season. The average I listed was what I had personally seen in the last 5 years. According to Dr. Masters' site here, the "normal" average for the last five months for Tucson is 4.24".

We get a tiny bit of rain between March and June, but outside of the heavy monsoon months of July and August (which give us almost half of our yearly rain), this is when we should be getting rain.

We have been at below "normal" rain for most of the time I have lived here, but this is the most severe I have seen it at since 2000.
Member Since: January 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 21
17. Inyo
11:42 PM GMT on January 21, 2006
isnt tucson's rainfall extremely variable though? like, driven by convective storms a lot which can totally miss based on chance alone? Do you guys get much winter rain from frontal systems?

Southern CA isnt actually that far below average, due to a wet October. We're expecting a relatively dry (maybe a bit of snow in the high country) and very WINDY next few days. fires arent out of the question here either, unfortunately
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 867
16. FtWaltonBch2Tucson
10:55 PM GMT on January 21, 2006
I got curious and did some digging for the exact figures. If you are counting significant rainfall as being .10" or more the last time we got any real rain was 17 Oct when we got .17". We're at 97 days and counting with only a .04" trace overnight 12-13 Dec since.

However, the map everyone's looking at is charting .25" rainfalls. It's been since 1 Sept since Tuscon's gotten more than .25" of rain! We had a .01" trace on 9 Sept and .12" on 14 Oct and that's all the rain we have had for 142 days!

Yeah, we're a desert, but .34" of rain in almost five months is ridiculous! The average for this timeperiod is somewhere between 1.5" and 2" depending on where in the valley you measure.
Member Since: January 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 21
15. lightning10
5:41 PM GMT on January 21, 2006
Ya thoes drought maps in Oklahoma are bad. Things are getting worse in AZ

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 41 Comments: 630

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About JeffMasters

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