For residents of the U.S., the 2010 hurricane season will be remembered for how quiet it was. Had it not been for the very weak Tropical Storm Bonnie which struck south Florida or the quite strong Tropical Storm Hermine that crossed the Mexican border into deep South Texas, the U.S. would have made it through the 2010 season unscathed. Little would U.S. residents know that the pre-season predictions of a “hyperactive” 2010 hurricane season with 17-20 named storms had actually come true!
In fact, the 2010 season ranks as one of the most active seasons on record, with 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes. Only 1933 and 2005 had more named storms, and only 2005 had more hurricanes (15) than we saw this year in the Atlantic Basin. Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), a measure of seasonal activity that takes into consideration how strong the season’s storms were and how long they lasted, was in the “hyperactive” range, with a total of 159.5 ACE points. A seasonal ACE of 103 is about normal, 150 is considered to be hyperactive. Below are a few of the statistical highlights of the 2010 season:
- Alex – Second strongest June hurricane on record
- Aug. 22-Sep. 29 – a record 11 named storms
- Most active season on record with no U.S. land falling hurricane
- Hurricane Karl – strongest hurricane to ever hit Veracruz, MX. Also, the only major hurricane ever recorded in the southern Bay of Campeche
- 12 hurricanes and no U.S. hit – never happened before. Historically, 1 in 4 Atlantic hurricanes hits the U.S.
The 2010 season was a record-breaking one numbers-wise and nobody got hit? Not quite. Even though the U.S. wasn’t hit by a hurricane this season, other areas were not so fortunate. Mexico suffered through 10 landfalls, including 3 hurricane landfalls, one of them a major hurricane (Karl). The northeast Caribbean was grazed by major Hurricane Earl and experienced some of the heaviest rainfall every recorded from Tropical Storm Otto that passed well to the north of the Caribbean. Nova Scotia was slammed by Hurricane Earl, and Newfoundland was hit by one of the worst hurricanes in its history, Igor. Igor’s heavy rain and strong wind wiped out large sections of the Trans-Canada highway in northeastern Newfoundland. Belize experienced 4 landfalls, including Hurricane Richard.
The graphic above indicates the regions that we had predicted might be more at risk for a hurricane landfall in 2010. I’ve added in all the landfalls on the map. We really thought that the pattern setting up last spring indicated a high risk of a land falling hurricane across the southeast U.S. (Florida). Fortunately for the U.S., the area of low pressure that we expected to be near the East U.S. Coast actually positioned itself just offshore, keeping a number of major hurricanes east of the U.S.
2010 Season Tracks (courtesy Unisys: http://weather.unisys.com/hurricane/)
It’s hard enough to predict seasonal activity, and it’s even harder to predict where a hurricane might make landfall 3-6 months before it forms. Just be thankful (U.S. residents) that the area of low pressure positioned itself just a little closer to the East U.S. Coast than had been predicted back in May. Had it not been for that, the U.S. may well have been hit by several major hurricanes this season. As I’ve always said, and “active” season is one in which you are directly hit by a storm. I’m thankful for the “inactive” season here in the U.S.
After such a season as this, what might the 2011 season have in store for us? Early indicators are that La Niña will be fading by next summer, but there will be no El Niño in its place. Instead, look for a weak La Niña to Neutral conditions in 2011. Such conditions would indicate another active hurricane season, perhaps with 15 named storms. I don’t think the U.S. can count on being so lucky as to escape any hurricane landfalls in 2011.