Today, I discovered a fascinating 49-page document produced by the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center. It contains hurricane records going back to 1851. It covers the deadliest, costliest and most intense U.S. tropical cyclones and other frequently requested facts. Unfortunately, it only goes through 2010. But the wealth of information on the period it covers more than makes up for that.
Like the Baseball Encyclopedia for Weather Geeks
It’s like the Baseball Encyclopedia for tropical storms…a must read for weather geeks and anyone who wants to impress out-of-town friends. Texas plays a prominent role in this chronicle.
A look at the lists reveals striking facts. For instance:
- Fourteen out of the fifteen deadliest hurricanes ranked Category 3 or higher intensity
- Large death tolls resulted largely from storm surge 10 feet or higher
- A large portion of the damage in some of the costliest storms resulted from inland floods caused by torrential rains
- One third of the 30 deadliest hurricanes ranked category 4 or higher
- Only seven of the 30 deadliest hurricanes occurred between 1985 and 2010 while more than two thirds of the costliest hurricanes occurred during the same period.
A Look Behind the Facts
All costs are adjusted for inflation, so that’s not the major issue. Migration is. 1990 Census data showed that 85% of U.S. coastal residents from Texas to Maine had never experienced a direct hit by a major hurricane. But we have more risk now because more than 50 million people have moved to coastal areas since then.
The study warns, “If warnings are heeded and preparedness plans developed, the death toll can be minimized. However, large property losses are inevitable in the absence of a significant change of attitude, policy, or laws governing building practices (codes and location) near the ocean.”
Filled with Tables, Maps and Insight
One of the most interesting features: maps that show the tracks of record setting storms during the entire period and during each decade.
Amaze your friends with trivia, such as:
- Average number of tropical cyclones per year AND how it has varied in different periods.
- Years with the most and least hurricanes and landfalls.
- Earliest and latest hurricane formations (hint: March 7 and December 31).
- Longest- and shortest-lived hurricanes.
- Lowest pressure in the Atlantic basin.
- Most hurricanes occurring in Atlantic basin at one time.
- Number of hurricanes in each month.
- Hurricane strikes of various categories by state.
- When hurricanes are most likely to strike different areas.
- Average return periods for hurricanes in different areas.
- Hurricane landfall CYCLES.
That last one really caught my eye.
Biggest Lesson Learned
The study concludes with another warning. “The largest loss of life can occur in the storm surge, so coastal residents should prepare to move away from the water until the hurricane has passed! Unless this message is clearly understood by coastal residents through a thorough and continuing preparedness effort, a future disastrous loss of life is inevitable.”
This is a genuine work of scholarship dished up in a way that makes it accessible to the general public. That takes some talent! Credits go to Eric Blake and Christopher Landsea of the NHC, and Ethan Gibney of the National Climatic Data Center.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/8/22 based on a study by NOAA, NWS and NCDC
1774 Days since Hurricane Harvey