The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced last week that three tropical cyclones from 2015 would get their names retired--Hurricane Joaquin and Tropical Storm Erika in the Atlantic, and Hurricane Patricia in the Eastern Pacific. The WMO will replace Erika with “Elsa”, Joaquin with “Julian” and Patricia with “Pamela” when the 2015 lists are reused in 2021.
The two new retired names in the Atlantic brings the total number of storm names retired since 1953 to 80. Although the Eastern Pacific, on average, has more hurricane activity than the Atlantic, far fewer storms have had their names retired in the Eastern Pacific, since the prevailing steering currents tend to take the storms to the west-northwest, away from land. Patricia is just the 11th storm to get its name retired (the names Adolph and Israel were removed from the Eastern Pacific list in 2001 due to political considerations, bringing the total number of retired names in the basin to thirteen.) Prior to Patricia, Mexico's Hurricane Manuel from 2013 and Hurricane Odile from 2014 both had their names retired, making 2015 the third consecutive year a hurricane has gotten its name retired in the Eastern Pacific--an unprecedented occurrence.
Figure 1.Hurricane Patricia as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft at 1:30 pm EDT October 23, 2015. Five hours prior to this time, Patricia was the most intense tropical cyclone (for wind) ever observed on Earth, with 215 mph sustained surface winds and a central pressure of 872 mb. Image credit: NASA.
Earth's strongest tropical cyclone ever measured: Hurricane Patricia Record-warm ocean waters helped Hurricane Patricia explode into a Category 5 storm with 215 mph sustained surface winds and a central pressure of 872 mb off the Pacific coast of Mexico on October 23, 2015. Hurricane Patricia's 215 mph winds officially tie it with the Northwest Pacific's Super Typhoon Nancy of 1961 for strongest winds of any tropical cyclone in world history, and Patricia's lowest pressure of 872 mb makes it the second most intense tropical cyclone in world history by pressure, behind the 870 mb measured in the Northwest Pacific's Super Typhoon Tip of 1979 (Tip's top sustained winds of "only" 190 mph were not as high as Patricia's, since Tip was a large, sprawling storm that did not have a tiny concentrated area of extreme eyewall winds.) Patricia made landfall in a relatively unpopulated area near Cuixmala in Southwest Mexico on October 23 as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, killing fourteen and doing $325 million in damage. For more information, see my post, Hurricane Patricia's 215 mph Winds: A Warning Shot Across Our Bow.
Video 1. Floodwaters rage through a street on Dominica island in the Caribbean on Thursday, August 27, 2015, after Tropical Storm Erika dumped 12+" of rain on the island.
Dominica's costliest storm in history: Tropical Storm Erika Although Tropical Storm Erika never reached hurricane strength, the storm brought a catastrophic deluge on August 27, 2015 to the Caribbean island of Dominica (population 72,000). Erika killed 30 people on the island and caused $300 million in damage--57% of their GDP of $524 million. Dominica's previous most expensive disaster was the $175 million in damage from Hurricane Marilyn of 1995. Erika is just the second Atlantic tropical storm not to reach hurricane strength to get its name retired. The other was Tropical Storm Allison of 2001, which brought record flooding to Texas, killing 41 and causing over $9 billion in damage.
Figure 2. Hurricane Joaquin as seen by the GOES-East satellite at 7:45 am EDT October 1, 2015. At the time, Joaquin was an intensifying Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds. The last position of the cargo ship El Faro, in the northwestern eyewall of Joaquin, is shown. Image credit: United States Navy and NOAA.
Hurricane Joaquin Hurricane Joaquin was the strongest Atlantic hurricane since 2007, topping out just below Category 5 strength on October 3, 2015 with 155 mph winds. Joaquin was the second deadliest and second most damaging Atlantic named storm of 2015, causing $100 million in damage in the Central Bahamas, where it lingered for several days. Joaquin's death toll was 34, with 33 of these deaths occurring from the sinking of the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro. Although Joaquin tracked far to the east of the United States, a non-tropical low over the Southeast tapped into the hurricane's moisture, causing record-shattering rains and flooding across North and South Carolina. Several areas of South Carolina saw accumulations exceeding the threshold for a 1-in-1,000-year event. The subsequent floods inundated large areas of the state, killing 21 people and causing over $2 billion in damage.