Today is officially the last day of hurricane season, can you believe it?
What a year, two Tropical Storms before the season even started and a Hurricane that created blizzard conditions!
Let's take a look at the original outlook.
The NOAA outlook released in May expected 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes, and 1-3 major hurricanes which is a category 3, 4, or 5.
An average season would be 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.
The original outlook also was also made dependent on the development of El Nino by the end of the summer and into fall. An El Nino, defined as warmer than average Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures, increases wind shear in the tropics, and can limit storm formation.
El Nino started to form, but the brakes were put on that pattern during the mid fall and El Nino did NOT form as expected. (El Nino is warmer than normal waters in the Equatorial Pacific). One theory of why El Nino may have stopped forming is due to the record amounts of Antarctic sea ice this summer (our summer, their winter). Now that the Southern Hemisphere is in their summer, some of that extra ice is melting off sending cooler water northward. Hence the lack of El Nino forming.
Back to Hurricane season, how did forecast numbers turn out?
There were 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes, but there was only 1 major hurricane.
That was hurricane Michael, which was a Category 3 storm. It never made it anywhere near land.
We'll call this an Above Normal year, with the exception of the lack of major hurricanes. That's always a good thing though.
The reason for more storms than forecasted? Well, with El Nino not forming as anticipated, a more favorable environment for storm development persisted into the fall.
Isaac: Part of what some call the curse of the I.
Isaac took a path very similar to Katrina, a day short of the 7 year Katrina anniversary. Remember, every storm is different. In some ways, the damage was much worse because Isaac was a very long duration storm over Louisiana. Although as it moved inland, Isaac did bring some rain to some drought stricken areas in the central part of the US.
Sandy: And then there was Sandy, still fresh in everyone's memory. A powerful Category one storm that surged up the East Coast. The hurricane eventually became a hybrid-low, and was more of a Hurricane-Nor' Easter storm. There was wind, rain, flooding, and even heavy wet snow with this storm.
I'd like to think the takeaway from this season is that the category of a hurricane DOES NOT MATTER. A storm is a storm, and they are all different. The category is only based on max sustained wind speeds, but a hurricane is much more than just wind.
It is my hope, and many others in the meteorological community, that the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale will be modified so people will take storms more seriously. Anyone out there say that Hurricane Sandy was "Just a Category One storm"? Well, look what that Category One storm did.