AIR Currents

September 19, 2013

If you believe what the general media outlets have been reporting, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is a bust. But let's take a closer, scientific look at how this season has actually progressed.

September 10 is the climatological midpoint of the Atlantic basin's hurricane season and as of September 19, we have had nine named storms. This is actually above the climatological average of six named storms. On the other hand, the season's first storm to reach hurricane strength—Humberto—achieved that distinction in the far eastern Atlantic at 5 a.m. on September 11, according to the National Hurricane Center. It missed the record set in 2002 by Gustav for the latest first hurricane in the satellite era by just three hours. On average, the first hurricane forms about a month earlier, on August 10, with three hurricanes expected by this time. The second hurricane of the 2013 season, Ingrid, made landfall in Mexico as a Category 1 storm on September 16. So, yes, it's true that we have had a below average number of hurricanes so far. But what does this fact tell us about how the rest of the season will unfold? Nothing.

In 2002, Gustav was upgraded to a hurricane at 8 a.m. on September 11. That storm ended up bypassing North Carolina and making landfall as a Category 2 hurricane in Nova Scotia. What happened during the rest of that season? There was still ample time for three additional hurricanes to form, including Isidore and Lili, which together caused approximately USD 635 million in insured losses according to ISO's Property Claim Services® (in 2002 dollars). The year 2002 is also tied for the record of eight tropical cyclones in the month of September alone.

Of course, when it comes to loss, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season has not made much of a U.S. impact—but all it takes is one storm. Late first hurricanes can pack a punch. For example, Hurricane Andrew was not only the first hurricane in 1992 but also the first named storm. It formed in late August and we're still talking about it. Stay tuned.

Scott StranslyBy: Scott Stransky
Senior Scientist, Research


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