Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wrapping up the 2017 Season (Finally!) and Subtropical Storm Alberto: May 26, Update B

I'm stocked up with wine and ice cream. Thanks to Brian D. for suggesting a super-efficient shortcut for the future (available in 10 flavours from
I'm a bit dubious about this though so, clearly I will have to investigate further and report back to you. ;-) 

Meanwhile in the Gulf, Subtropical Storm Alberto is still quite weak, with winds of 40mph (TS range: 39-73mph) and a central pressure still at 999mb. He is now at 23.3N, 85.1W heading N at 13mph. There's no point showing you any new satellite images because the latest ones on the NHC site stop at around 10.30-11am EST. The data on the NHC site is from the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), who, in turn, have a note on their website to apologize that the images are not being updating and they are working on the problem. Oopsies. Not the best timing for a technical glitch. I'm sure we'll be back to the regularly scheduled programming soon. The track is still heading to the northern Gulf coast - it did shift slightly eastwards, so the Florida panhandle is looking even more likely. 

Wrapping up the 2017 Season (Finally!)
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move" (HHGTTG) which, I think, pretty much sums up last season. What a tough year that was! Apart from being the most expensive Atlantic hurricane season to date (estimate of over $280 billion in economic loss), we saw entire islands in the Caribbean just vanish for a few days. 

I was in Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago and I have to say, the resilience of the people there is amazing. Despite having gone through a long and protracted traumatic experience, losing people they knew, and not having power in hot tropical conditions for months on end (some parts of the island are still without), they are still smiling, warm, and welcoming, and have worked hard to get back to 'normal' as quickly as possible. The scale of the disaster that hit not just Puerto Rico, but the other islands in the Caribbean is enormous. Even our wonderful and intrepid on-the-ground reporter, Tom from St. Thomas, was hit and finally got power back on Christmas Day. Let's hope it's a quieter year for all!

And what does the Great Reckoning of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season look like? Officially we had a busy year (said Captain Obvious ;-)). There were 17 named storms, 10 Hurricanes, of which 6 were Major Hurricanes (category 3 or above). This was the busiest year since 2005 - the year I started writing this. The average number of named storms is 12 (which takes into account our better satellite technology with which we can now see small short-lived storms), with an average of 6 hurricanes and about 2.5 major hurricanes. The start-of-the-season predictions (which I still roll my eyes at) for 2017 all predicted a higher-than-usual number of named storms (hovering around 14 +/-3), but all fell short on the number of hurricanes and the number of Major Hurricanes. So, across the board, not the best estimates at the start of the season and clearly shows that there is still much to be learned as something was clearly missing in these estimates. 

How rare is it to have a season like 2017? Alas, it has happened before - and records going back to pre-airplane surveillance show this. In September 2017 there were two category 5 storms within 3 weeks - Irma and Maria - and both, as we know, hit the Caribbean the hardest. This is not unheard of; we've had multiple category 5 storms in a the same year before: in 2007, two hit central America (within 3 weeks); in 2005 we had four category 5 storms (Emily, who ended up making initial landfall in the Yucatan; and Katrina, Rita, and Wilma who headed to Florida and the northern Gulf coast); in 1961 we had Carla (Texas) and Hattie (Yucatan); and 1932 and 1933 had double hits in both years (and remember, this is before satellites so who knows what was missed at sea) with hits to the Bahamas, Cuba, the US east coast, and the Yucatan. 

As for an above-average season of named storms...again, alas, not too unusual. In 1887, there were 19 tropical storms - amazing that they 'recorded' 19 before we even had planes! And before planes really came on-line, records show there were 13 in 1931; 15 in 1932; 20 in 1933; 13 in 1934; 17 in 1936. There is a very good possibility that storms that stayed at sea were missed in these years. In 1944, routine aircraft surveys started close to the US (western Atlantic) and the records show that 14 named storms were seen in 1944; 16 in 1949 and 1950; 14 in 1953; 16 in 1954; 13 in 1955; and 14 in 1959.  Then the era of satellites started in 1966 and we saw 18 named storms in 1969; 13 in 1971; 13 in 1984; 14 in 1990; 19 in 1995; 13 in 1996; and 14 in 1998. In 2000 we had another boost in monitoring technology and the ability to catch those short-lived storms and so, in 2000 and 2001, 15 named storms were recorded; 16 in 2003; 15 in 2004; 28 in 2005; 15 in 2007; 16 in 2008; 19 in 2010, 2011, and 2012; 14 in 2013; 15 in 2016; and of course, 17 in 2017. As our observations improve, the average number of storms per season is slowly increasing - only 10 years ago, the average number was hovering around 10 named storms. 

So to sum up: Tropical Storms Happen. They are nature's most efficient way of releasing heat from the tropics to the extratropics (like letting off steam) and they are also part of the annual cycle of rain - without storms, some parts of the world would have a drought. 

Before I go, I must thank Doug M. at CMS/USF in Florida for the listserv and Ben A. for help with the website/blog. I'd also like to thank the NHC for their hard work - it certainly was a crazy year! And Thank YOU dear readers of 2017 - as always, the wittiest, most beautiful, intelligent people on this planet (obviously, as you are reading this!). I don't know how many hits the blog had at the end of last season - it was over 200,000 though. And of course, a huge huge Thank You to the many on-the-ground reports that were sent my way - my thoughts go out to all those who were so greatly impacted! I really hope we don't keep in quite so frequent contact in 2018 - and I mean that in the best possible way!! 

That's a wrap for 2017... phew, got that in with just under a week before the 2018 season officially starts. What can I say? I work to deadlines... ;-)

Toodle pippy!

These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms (my storm blog). If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast. This is not an official forecast.

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