What Happened to All the Hurricanes Al…
Published at Pajamas Media 10/18/10
By Art Horn, Meteorologist
A great hurricane flame out has struck the Atlantic Ocean. After hurricane Katrina and the amazing season of 2005 we were supposed to see year after year of terrible hurricanes. Where are they? Where are all the hurricanes that were to bring death and destruction? We were told global warming was here and would ignite a fire under the storms and make them bigger and more frequent. Massive hurricanes like Katrina would become much more common. The world’s oceans were warming and this would stoke the fires of these tropical monsters. But they are not here, the hurricane are missing in action and have been ever since 2005. The truth is there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of hurricanes in the last 5 years. The total energy in all hurricanes around the world has plunged since 1993. The opposite of what was predicted. How could that be if global warming is real and is impacting our climate today?
Let’s go back to the middle of the last decade and see what took place. Four hurricanes made landfall on the United States during the 2004 season. All of them hit Florida. They were Charley on August the 13th hitting the southwest coast as a tiny but powerful category 4 storm. There was massive damage over a narrow path from the Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte area all the way to Orlando. Hurricane Frances came ashore at Stuart Florida during the night and morning hours of September 4th and 5th. Even though the storm was only a category 2 its slow forward movement inflicted many hours of pounding hurricane force winds. A large area from Palm beach county northward to Vero Beach and beyond was severely impacted.
Three weeks later to the dismay of everyone on Florida’s east coast hurricane Jeanne struck again at Stuart as a during the night of September 25th into the morning of the 26th. Jeanne had moved along the north coast of the Dominican Republic on the 17th of September. By the 20th Jeanne was moving to the northeast away from the United States. Unbelievably, while people on the east coast of south and central Florida were recovering from Frances, hurricane Jeanne did a complete 360 degree loop and headed back towards Florida! The category 3 hurricane made landfall right at Stuart on the night of September 25th , the same place the eye of Frances had crossed the coast three weeks earlier! Two significant hurricanes in the same place within three weeks of each other, amazing!
Ivan came ashore as a category 3 hurricane just to the west of the Florida Panhandle during the night of September the 15th and the early morning hours of the 16th. Fortunately for residents of southern Alabama and western Florida Ivan had diminished in strength. It had been a mighty category 5 when it has passed the western tip of Cuba on the 13th. The hurricane season of 2004 was a very bad year for Florida. The people of Florida breathed a sigh of relief when the 2004 hurricane season was over. Then there was 2005.
The hurricane season of 2005 was one for the record books. The long term average number of named tropical storms in the Atlantic basin is 11. In 2005 there were an amazing 27. The long term average number of hurricanes is 6. In 2005 there were a record 15. Actually the hurricane seasons of 1933 and 1887 were probably very similar in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes. There were no satellites to see all the storms back then so 2005 stands as the “record” year. There were so many storms in 2005 that the hurricane center used up all the names on the list! Names from the Greek alphabet were recruited to fill the void. This was the first year since the naming of storms began in 1953 that this was necessary.
This was also the year of hurricane Katrina. This massive hurricane first made landfall near Miami Florida as a catagory 1 hurricane on August the 25th. Katrina then entered the Gulf of Mexico and became a powerful category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour on the 28th. Dangerous Katrina then moved northward and made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi river on the morning of August 29th as a weaker but still very dangerous category 3. Over 1,800 people officially lost their lives (there were probably many more that were never found or counted) and the broad area of destruction made this one of the worst natural disasters in American history.
In his movie, An Inconvenient Truth former vice president Al Gore said global warming caused hurricane Katrina. Although Katrina was a devastating hurricane it was not the most powerful to hit the United States. Hurricane Andrew struck extreme south Florida on August 24th 1992 as a category 5 with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles per hour. The Okeechobee hurricane of 1928 struck Palm Beach as a category 4 and was more powerful than Katrina. The Galveston hurricane of September the 8th 1900 struck the Texas coast as a category 4. There are many other examples. Mr. Gore does not know the difference between weather and climate. It is not possible to say that any single weather event can be the result of a long, slow climate trend. There is simply far too much year to year variability in weather to attribute a single hurricane or any other weather event to a climate trend.
Not to be outdone another massive hurricane named Rita struck the upper Texas coast on September the 24th 2005. Rita had also been a category 5 storm over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico but struck Texas as a category 3. Hurricane Wilma became another super storm in the western Caribbean Sea on the 19th of October. On the 19th Wilma had maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour! The storm crossed the northeastern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula on the 22nd and then tracked to the northeast. Hurricane Wilma made landfall on the southwest Florida coast on October 24th as a category 3 storm. The hurricane did extensive damage across southwest, south central and east coast Florida before moving off into the Atlantic.
At this point many in Florida had seen enough and moved out. Three hurricanes in south Florida in two years was more than some could take. A friend of mine in West Palm Beach said to me as the 2006 season began “I feel like I’m looking down the barrel of a gun.” Another friend of mine in Boca Raton just gave up and moved away. He couldn’t sell the house because it was on a canal and would flood if another hurricane hit. But at least he was far from the coast and the worst of the storms. He could sleep better.
So there you have it, a barrage of powerful hurricanes in back to back years. By the spring of 2006 people were wondering if this was going to be what Al Gore said it would be. Global warming was going to make more hurricanes and more powerful hurricanes. After what happened in 2004 and 2005 people were beginning to believe it. Well…at least some people did. A review of hurricane history showed that the amazing season of 2005 was a rare event. In fact since the mid 1880s there have only been two other seasons like it, 1887 and 1933.
By May of 2006 there was great anticipation as the next hurricane season approached. There were rumors that New Orleans was going to be hit with another large hurricane. Private weather companies made predictions that the northeastern part of the country was at “high risk” of being hit by a hurricane. Some were predicting 5 hurricanes would hit the US in 2006. Then reality hit home. The hurricane season of 2006 was quiet, very quiet. True there were 5 hurricanes but they were far at sea and none came close to hitting the US mainland.
As the 2007 season approached the forecasts were again for an active to very active season. The 2007 season was more active but the total of 6 hurricanes was only the long term average number. It was not active or very active at all. There were two category 5 hurricanes. One of them struck Mexico and the other Central America. One category 1 hurricane, Humberto hit the upper Texas coast on the evening of September 12th but did little significant damage.
The season of 2008 was back to being active with 16 named storms and 8 hurricanes. Three hurricanes made landfall that year but the one that stood above the others was Ike. This category 2 hurricane was a broad storm with winds very near category 3 intensity when it made landfall near Galveston, Texas during the early morning hours of September the 13th. There was a large amount of damage from the winds and the storm surge.
The hurricane season of 2009 was predicted to have about the usual number of hurricanes. Instead it was one of the quietest hurricane seasons in the last 25 years. Only 3 hurricanes developed and none did any damage to the United States. Ida was a category 1 when it made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi river on November the 9th.
So what happened? Where did all the hurricanes go? After the crazy 2004/05 seasons we were going to have increased hurricanes and more powerful hurricanes. Pretend scientists like Al Gore said global warming was here and we had better listen to him because he had the answers. People pay Al Gore $200,000.00 to speak but that doesn’t mean he knows anything. In politics it’s not so much what you say, it’s how you say it. Very active hurricane seasons like 2005 are rare, even in periods of increased activity which we are in now and have been in since about 1995. The increase in hurricanes since 1995 is due to a cyclic warming of the Atlantic Ocean, not any so called global warming. The same thing happened from the 1930s to the late 1950s. Even in periods of increased activity there can be several years of decreased hurricanes due to things such as El Nino, cooler water temperatures and dust from the Sahara desert.
To date there no category 3 or greater hurricane has hit the United States since 2005. Ike in 2008 was close but not quite. In fact this is the longest stretch of time that we have not had a category 3 or greater hurricane hit the US since the 5 year period from 1911 to 1914! The great hurricane flame out that has dominated the seasons since 2005 is just part of the natural variability of weather. All those that said global warming caused 2005 and Katrina and that our future was doomed to get stormier and stormier were completely wrong, as usual.
Interesting the great hurricane flame out has been a world wide phenomenon. The ACE index measures the energy in all tropical storms and hurricanes around the globe. Currently the ACE index is at its lowest level in 30 years. World wide hurricane activity has been not only lower since 2005 it’s much lower, sorry Al that’s the way it goes in the forecasting biz.
The great hurricane flame out won’t last forever. The active phase of hurricanes has not gone away. However, it is very unlikely we will see a season like 2005 for a very, very long time, maybe 60 years. The 2010 hurricane season has been quite active but no hurricane has struck the United States. But be wary, even in slow hurricane seasons a very large storm can suddenly develop. The season of 1992 had just 4 hurricanes but one was Andrew, one of only three category 5 storms to hit the United States in the last 100 years.