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A New Type of Drought: Lack of Major Land-falling US Hurricanes

Paper Reviewed
Hall, T. and Hereid, K. 2015. The frequency and duration of U.S. hurricane droughts. Geophysical Research Letters 42: 3482-3485.

Introducing the subject of their recent publication, Hall and Hereid (2015) write that "as of the end of the 2014 hurricane season, the U.S. has experienced no major hurricane landfall since hurricane Wilma in 2005," which drought (or lack of such hurricane occurrence) is described by them as being a lack of Saffir-Simpson scale 3 or higher hurricanes at landfall (i.e., maximum 1-minute sustained wind speeds of 178 km/hour or higher). And they go on from there to illustrate just how unusual this recent lack of strong hurricanes has been.

The 9-year major hurricane "drought" (2006-2014 inclusive), as the two researchers describe it, is without precedent in the historical record -- as documented by records archived in the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Database (HURDAT) -- which extends all the way back to 1851, as described by Jarvinen et al. (1984). And this record reveals that the closest major hurricane drought to that of the present was the smaller 8-year record of 1861-1868.

In addition, Hall and Hereid employed a stochastic tropical cyclone model to calculate the mean waiting time between multi-year major hurricane droughts, finding that "the mean time to wait for a 9-year drought is 177 years." And so it would appear that if post-Little Ice Age warming has impacted land-falling U.S. hurricanes, it has done so in a most pleasant manner.

Jarvinen, B.R., Neumann, J. and Davis, M.A. 1984. A tropical cyclone data tape for the North Atlantic basin, 1886-1983, contents, limitations, and uses. NOAA Technical Memo NWS NHC 22.

Posted 6 October 2015