Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hurricane Season 2011

People are still cleaning up from Hurricane Irene and the other storms of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, but we already know that this year is one of the most active on record.

For more on how hurricanes form, see my August 31, 2011 post here.

Hurricane seasons begin on June 1st of a given year and end on November 30th. This does not mean there are no storms before or after those dates, but they typically are concentrated within that half of the year. Thus, mariners, meteorologists, and insurance companies have considered that period “hurricane season” since the 1930s.

This year was tied with 1887, 1995, and 2010 in being the third most-active hurricane season on record (the most active was 2005, with 28 storms and which actually extended into early 2006).  Although it was considered “above normal” in the number of tropical storms and hurricanes, it was atypical in some ways. The first storm, Tropical Storm Arlene, did not develop until late June, when it slammed into Veracruz, Mexico, killing 30 people. The first full hurricane of the season, Irene, did not occur until late August. Irene made up for lost time, however, killing 55 people in the Caribbean and North America and causing more than $10billion in damage.

Irene was followed a week later by Katia which, after it was finished with the North American coast, sent remnants into Europe, killing a person in the British Isles and causing power outages as far east as St. Petersburg, Russia. Meanwhile, the US and Canadian coasts were still getting hammered by Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Maria. More storms followed, a total of twenty for the season, seven of which developed into full-blown hurricanes.

Above: NOAA video of the entire 2011 Atlantic hurricane season in 4.5 minutes

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