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Re-writing the record books for Atlantic hurricanes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 5:46 PM GMT on January 06, 2006

The official NHC final report for Hurricane Epsilon is out, and says:

"Epsilon, the record-setting 26th and final named tropical cyclone of the 2005 hurricane season..."

So, we'll have to re-write the record books for the Hurricane Season of 2005. I'm guessing Dr. Franklin felt a tad uneasy when he penned that line on December 16. I know I felt a little uneasy when I wrote my "final" blog on the Hurricane Season of 2005 after Epsilon finally dissipated. Was there a Tropical Storm Zeta lurking in the future?
Surely not!

Well, we have one more record to add our incredible tally of records--the latest ending hurricane season of all time. Zeta has lasted until January 6, beating out the January 5 ending date of the 1954 hurricane season. The Hurricane Season of 2005 is not officially over--but will be tonight. High wind shear and dry air have contributed to the extensive deterioration of Zeta today, and this afternoon's advisory should be the last one for the Hurricane Season of 2005. Zeta is now just a swirl of low clouds, and has no deep convection anywhere near it. With dry air and high wind shear expected to continue for the next two days, the chances of regeneration are slim. So let's close the books on the Hurricane Season of 2005, and hope we never see anything like it in our lifetimes. I do believe that this was a once-in-a-lifetime hurricane season. Even if it turns out that global warming proves to have a dramatic impact on Atlantic hurricanes in the coming decades, I seriously doubt I'll live to see another season with 27 named storms, or a season with three of the six most intense hurricanes of all time.

Coming next week: Late-season Atlantic tropical cyclones: has there been an increase in recent years?

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

I believe that you are right about not seeing a season like this in our lifetimes....it was a truely incredible one.
Thanks Doc. Amazing..
It is SO cold here today... Cloudy and cold.. Our current temp is around 45
upper wind shear appears to be diminishing.... this may not be the last we see of zeta....
Bundle up 21!!! :-) It has actually made it up to 59...but I am sure that is as high as it will get today
meteorman....looking at the VL I really do not see how seta can make any type of a comeback now...nothing left but a swirl of low clouds...
not seta.....zeta...sorry about that
I guess I feel fortunate at 64 here in West Palm. Supposed to be in the 30's tonight.
we're heading down to a low of 35 with windchills in the morning in the 20s
Great thing about South Fla though is that Monday it is supposed to be back in the upper 70's again.
Our temp is actually 42.5 brrrr...
brrrrrrrr....that is cold for this time of the day 21
I'm going to go get something to eat...be back in a bit
bye :-)
Living here in Fort Lauderdale, it was amazing to how fast the city cleaned up after Katrina and Wilma. Yes some of the city was without electricity for over two weeks. But the clean-up was fast and well planned. They started cleaning the beach the very next day with the area entirely covered with sand. The bulk trash started just as fast as homeowners clean their yards and disposed it in front of residences at the curb. Just 5 weeks after Wilma blew thru last of the bulk trash was picked up. Today now 2 1/2 months after Wilma at cat 3 the city looks very much back to normal except for the occasional blue tarp roof, damaged signage, and the foliage is growing back nicely.
The City of Fort Lauderdale has got it's act togather.
Goodbye to 2005. Devastating as it was, it was truly an amazing thing to experience, and I'm almost dissapointed it's over. Treasure 2005's final recon:

URNT12 KNHC 200848
A. 20/08:28:20Z
B. 16 deg 35 min N
085 deg 03 min W
C. NA mb NA m
D. NA kt
E. deg nm
F. 013 deg 029 kt
G. 271 deg 028 nm
H. EXTRAP 1005 mb
I. 21 C/ 425 m
J. 23 C/ 424 m
K. 23 C/ NA
N. 12345/ 1
O. 0.02 / 1 nm
P. AF305 0627A GAMMA OB 13
MAX FL WIND 37 KT N QUAD 07:06:50 Z

And it's most amazing:

Storm Name: WILMA (24L)
Mission Number: 07
Flight ID: AF308
Observation Number: 16 Google Maps Vortex Position
Time: 08:00:30Z
Latitude: 17.1N
Longitude: 82.3W
Minimum height at 700 mb 2082 m
Est. Surface Winds Observed: NA
Distance and bearing from center to max surface wind: NA
Maximum flight level wind: NW (320) @ 191 mph
Distance and bearing from center to max flight level wind: 3 mi SW (221)
Sea level pressure: 884 mb
Max flight level temperature outside the eye: 50F at 10082 feet
Max flight level temperature inside the eye: 75F at 9984 feet
Dewpoint temperature inside the eye: 50F
Eye character: CLOSED
Eye shape: Circular
Eye diameter: 5 mi
Fix determined by: Penetration Radar Wind Pressure Temperature at 700 mb
Navigation / Met Accuracy: 0.02 / 1 nm
MAX FL WIND 168 KT SE QUAD 06:10:20 Z
I think Palmbeacher is sick... She said she wasn't feeling well the other day... Haven't heard from her since Wed.
And one last memory to leave you with...one of the scariest things I've ever seen:

Colby - Wilma?
20. rlk
I've commented on this before, but I'm not convinced that we can really compare the old record of 21 named storms (or equivalents, at any rate) with the 2005 record of 27 named storms. I suspect that quite a few of the storms this year would never have been identified as tropical systems in 1933, particularly the ones in the eastern Atlantic that occurred late in the season that were otherwise atypical systems.

The 1933 map shows nothing east of 50 degrees west at all, and very little east of 55 degrees and north of 20 degrees (this season was nothing special in the tropical eastern Atlantic either; it was the subtropical eastern Atlantic that was wild late in the season). In particular, I suspect that Vince, Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta never would have been identified as tropical systems in the absence of satellite imagery, and perhaps Lee also. That would leave 22 or 23 storms, which still would have exceeded the 1933 total, but not by a large amount.

In addition, while this year certainly had more big storms than anything else in the satellite/aircraft recon era, I'm similarly not convinced that we had anything dramatically more than 1933 (or 1950, for that matter). In particular, ships would try to avoid anything particularly nasty for obvious reasons. If ships started seeing huge swells along with the other signs of the outskirts of a tropical system, they'd have probably tried to get while the getting was good.

Certainly this season was a tremendously active one; I'm just not quite convinced that it completely exceeded other historically active seasons. Maybe "once in a lifetime" (referring to 50-100 year recurrence) is an accurate description, though...
rik - Good point. I agree... Who knows what was out there...
It doesn't really matter - though if you're suggesting this season is anything even approaching normal...

*moves to Siberian mountains and builds a bunker*
ForecasterColby~ the other day I had happened across the hurrricane hunter's homepage, i've got the data page linked & hadn't seen this. I had been of the mindset of let's fly one out once in a while to study a greek storm, as some others. But according to their home page, they need the break, as many of us. Sounds like many of them lost their homes during Katrina. The planes & whole operation had to be relocated for the rest of the season as well. Hail to our Hunters!

As for our worst season ever~ Makes me think of a shirt i saw at the flea market a few weeks ago~ 2005 I survived the worst hurricane season ever. AGAIN! ~ I certainly hope that was it, but it's hard to ignore indicators, like ~ Dr Grey's 6 indicators look worst than last year & the several atmospheric shifts that have occured recently (ungodly old ice melting, the air consisting of things it never did back til the time of the oldest ice we can find). Even the specific drought in one place to tropical activity in another. Some of these trends that have held for so long, suddenly no longer apply. For example ~Dr. Gray~

Our initial 6-11 month early December seasonal hurricane forecast scheme (Gray et al. 1992) demonstrated hindcast skill for the period of 1950-1990 but did not give skillful results when utilized on a real-time basis for forecasts between 1995-2001. This was due to the discontinuation of the strong relationships we had earlier found between West African rainfall and the stratospheric quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) with Atlantic basin major hurricane activity 6-11 months in the future. We did not expect these relationships that had worked so well for 41 years to stop working from 1995 onward. We do not yet have a good explanation as to why these relationships have failed. We have discontinued this earlier 1 December forecast scheme and have developed a new 1 December forecast scheme.

But what will happen we'll have to wait & see. Even the whole gulf stream come to halt, thing. Europe's piece already slowing down, mini ice age to follow. I'd hope Dr Master's would return to this subject ~ he had doubted the theory(never got to why). After checking Europe's weather for 2001-2004, i was beginning to as well. 3 of the 4 years were much warmer than normal.
back...hey 21!!
Hey Dude!
Weatherdude, I'll BRB..
dude~ we're gonna be cold come tonight! I got 61.5F right now.
We are supposed to get down to 28!
Hey Skye, how are you?
I know skye....dew point is already at 36....it's gonna be a cold night
ya got me beat 21!!! :-)
BRB AGAIN! work work work, grrr..... lol
Dude - Type in zip: 32533
21... I knew that you were having another one of those days
That's mine :-)
Dr Masters,
Thanks for the latest update. All I've got to say is I am so glad if I had to go through this once in a lifetime Hurricane Season 2005, I have done it with all of the WU Staff and Friends; that is the blessing in all of this!

Thanks to you all for everything you did this year to help us be prepared and stay safe.

But don't go away too far in this "off season"...you may be needed again shortly!!!!

YES I AM!! But it IS Friday!!!!!
21...that is cold!!!!! I may have to cover up all of my plants Saturday night...expecting frost Sunday morning
mine is 32955 :-)
I hate it that email is not working :-(
I fogot to bring in one of my Begonias (i think that's how you spell it) and it got FRIED!!
me too!
I've got all kinds of plants to cover....takes me about an hours to get them covered up right
Dude - Gamma sent a message to WunderZuka and he is working on it... I'm gonna vacumn my office, brb..
lol, " takes me bout an hours" Dude - you sound like my family (they are very very country) lol
really gonna vacumn now... brb
Hey~ i'm good ~ just been workin on getting my new weatherstation online between life. Dew point here 38.6, but dude your a just a little north. Still got my vegtable garden to save. Wilma made my tomatoes come in & ripen late. Welp nap's over~ lurk at ya'll later:)
LOL...didn't even see that 21....so how ya'll doin'? :-)
later skye
21..check your email for me..
unless Zeta somehow makes an unlikely Miracle
comeback... this is the National Hurricane Center signing off for
2005... finally.

Now we can party like its 1999.

Happy New Year!
Does any know which MAJOR records WASN"T broken for the 2005 season.
matilida, one record this season was not broken or tied--the 1950 season had 8 major hurricanes. 2005 had 'only' 7
Matilda... read your assessment of Wilma impact.. Do you work for the Chamber of Commerce??? You sure paint a rosy picture.. I live here also and my assessment wouldn't read like yours!
Last post by the hurricane center. The boys there are exhausted by the sound of it and I *hope* they finally are able to take a much deserved vacation after what they had endured these last several months... With this last post, we are officially done with 2005.

It was a privlige to share this experience with other like minded bloggers. Here's to a quiet couple of months until the Superbowl



Statement as of 4:00 PM EST on January 06, 2006

shower activity has continued to decrease and is now limited to just
a few skinny bands of shallow convection well to the east of the
center. As such... Zeta no longer meets the criteria of a tropical
cyclone... which means that both it and the 2005 Atlantic hurricane
season have ended.

The initial motion estimate is 285/6. Zeta has made a jog back to
the northwest... but the average motion over the past 18 hours has
been west-northwesterly at about 06 kt. The remnant circulation of
Zeta is forecast to move in a west-northwest or northwestward
direction for the next 24-36 hours... and turn northward afterwards
as the remnant low comes under the influence of increasing
southerly low-level flow ahead of a strong cold front currently
moving eastward across the Bahamas. By 72 hours... the skeletal
remains of Zeta are expected to dissipate or be absorbed by the
frontal system.

I suppose it is only fitting that the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic
hurricane season ends with a record breaking storm. Today... Zeta
surpassed 1954 Alice #2 as the longest-lived tropical cyclone to
form in December and cross over into the next year. Zeta was also
the longest-lived January tropical cyclone. In addition...Zeta
resulted in the 2005 season having the largest accumulated cyclone
energy...or Ace... surpassing the 1950 season. So... until the 2006
season begins... unless Zeta somehow makes an unlikely Miracle
comeback... this is the National Hurricane Center signing off for
2005... finally.

Forecaster Stewart

forecast positions and Max winds

initial 06/2100z 23.4n 50.3w 25 kt...dissipating
12hr VT 07/0600z 24.0n 52.4w 25 kt...remnant low
24hr VT 07/1800z 25.4n 54.8w 20 kt...remnant low
36hr VT 08/0600z 27.8n 56.8w 20 kt...remnant low
48hr VT 08/1800z 30.2n 57.0w 20 kt...remnant low
72hr VT 09/1800z...dissipated

while all of you guys are complaining about a cold 42 degrees, it has been a very pleasant 30-35 degrees the past 2 weeks in Minnesota.

It has been very interesting here, between Dec. 24 and Dec. 31, the NWS station in Chanhassen Minn, had zero minutes of sunshine. I live about a hour south of the Twin Cities, and I have not seen the sun in about 2 weeks(and Im not exaggurating).

There has been such a strong inversion about a mile in the air that when the 35 degree temps melt the snow, the moisture gets stuck in the air, so it has been gloomy for about 2 weeks now. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SEE THE SUN ONCE EVERY WEEK OR TWO. PLEASE.
Goodbye Zeta. What a way to end the season!

(I accidentally posted this on the previous day's entry. Oops!)
60. Inyo
So, if the Gulf Stream ever breaks down again, will it result in warmer temperatures in the Tropics as well as colder temperatures in Europe?
Bye Bye, Zeta...Bye Bye Hurricane Season 2005...FINALLY!!!