Monday, October 12, 2020

This Has Been One Weird Hurricane Season

It's hard to avoid the talk about how active this hurricane season has been, and yet there's an undercurrent of weirdness I'm not picking up anywhere.  I'm approaching this from my viewpoint as an interested observer because we get storms here and I'm used to following them (I've called following the weather in the tropics my summertime hobby).  Let me start with a couple of obvious oddities.  If you watch much TV, like the Weather Channel, you'll see something like this graphic (dated yesterday, which means you may have seen something slightly different): 

Yes, we've had a lot of storms: over twice normal.  But the majority of those have been weaker, milder storms.  While we have over twice a normal season's number of named storms, we've only had 33% more hurricanes than normal.  That, in turns, means the others have all been tropical or subtropical storms.  Subtropical storms never used to get named.  To finish the chart, we've had 1/3 fewer Major hurricanes (Category III or higher) than normal, too.

Perhaps you're familiar with the metric used for evaluating storm seasons called Accumulated Cyclone Energy or ACE.  The ACE agrees with the statement that it's an above average season, but not extreme.  

You can see that the North Atlantic season is running 143% of average but nowhere near where the 200% number of named storms implies, so the ACE also says most of the storms haven't been hurricanes.  There was one landfalling, category IV storm, Laura, which struck in almost exactly the same place as the Category II storm Delta hit last week.   Delta briefly attained Category IV, for a few hours between crossing the Yucatan, and hitting Louisiana as a Cat II.  Worldwide, the ACE level is at 2/3 of normal Year To Date, with the lowest ACE in the Western North Pacific at 39% of normal. 

The area referred to as Hurricane Alley has been the weirdest this year.  This is where low pressure systems come off the coast of Africa, then move west across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean, Central America, or the CONUS.  There have been several that resembled a Hurricane Alley storm that just never developed; others developed and went northwest far earlier than typical.  There hasn't been one storm that fit the pattern.  If you look at the NHC five day forecast right now, there's an area currently rated at a 30% chance of developing.  It's currently west of the Windward Islands and has crossed most of the Atlantic with a 10 to 30% chance of developing.  

If you follow these forecasts, areas the forecasters are concerned about are first called an invest (area of investigation), then go through the sequence of being a depression, a tropical storm (which gets named), then a hurricane.  One of things that may be adding to our number of named storms is that the standards for naming storms have changed.  According to one source, 
When comparing the number of named storms, historically, the criteria for receiving a name was loosened in 2002. … Tropical storms and hurricanes were named, lesser subtropical storms and depressions were numbered. 2002 and beyond, the lesser tropical depressions and tropical storms use up names from the list.  Gustav, in 2002, was the first subtropical storm to be named.  Those that peter out and never become hurricane-magnitude or storm-strength artificially elevate the count of storms that year, when compared to 1950-2001 historical records. 
A vivid example of the impact of naming is this year's Subtropical Storm Alpha.  Thanks to the satellites watching 24/7, an area of low pressure and storms was noted well north of the Azores - which are well off the coast of Portugal.  They kept an eye on the system for a couple of days, and finally gave it the name Alpha at 1630 UTC on September 18th.  Within two hours Alpha went onshore onto Portugal crossed over the Iberian peninsula and dissipated by the 20th.  Since it never was a tropical storm, it wouldn't have been named under the old system.  Neither naming convention tells me why the US National Hurricane Center should have anything to do with naming a subtropical storm that develops offshore Europe and only affects Europe.  I think they have their own weather service. 

All in all, it has been an active season, but not extremely so.  Dr. Maue has a graphic of his ACE chart that marks off prior years that were more active than this record year.  

Do I need to put in a disclaimer that I don't mean to disparage people who went through Laura, or Delta or any other system?  I feel their pain because I've been through more tropical storms than I can recall and about a dozen hurricanes up through Category III.  I'm just always inclined to look farther when I find things that make me say, “that's funny.”  Of course, you've noticed the climate alarmists are blaming all of this on global warmening (or whatever they're calling it these days).  The overall downward trend of the ACE doesn't support that at all.


  1. The agenda is toward alarmism, not toward facts. It clearly fits with 2020

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. It was maybe 4 years ago I noticed they started naming 'regular' storms - frontal activity. Not just storms in the Carib and environs but coming down out of Canada too, which would mean including winter activity. It seems that new policy was begotten by the Wx Channel. At first I thought of how the insurance industry would react as they have special clauses that take effect during named storms. Then I thought it was more hoopla to generate viewership. Anyway, if that new-ish policy is included, of course it looks like a significant increase in storm activity. Say hello to the Ministry of Troof.

    1. I think naming cold fronts was just the Weather Channel and yeah it was hoopla to attract viewers. I don't watch much TV and haven't had TWC in over two years, but I never heard anyone else calling winter storms by a name.

  4. Well, yes, there are a lot of storms out there. The real question is how many of them actually got anywhere near landfall.

    Most of them, just a hazard to navigation. Someone in the early 1900's would most likely not have ever heard of most of them.

    Doom pron. It's just doom pron...

    1. The real question is how many of them actually got anywhere near landfall. About 2/3, I think. Pretty sure 10 made landfall in the US.

      I've always said you wouldn't know you were in a tropical storm and not just a rainy, windy day without the TV guy telling you it was one. A tropical storm is just a yucky day with a PR agent to tell you how badass it is.

    2. "A tropical storm is just a yucky day with a PR agent to tell you how badass it is."

      You couldn't be more right! It's just another page in the policy of transforming everyone into delicate, easily-broken Pringles potato chips.

  5. Part of the issue is that since so many in the weather forecasting industry are "climate change" alarmists, they got the barriers to naming storms lowered to further their agenda.

    Another factor as you pointed out SiG is that the ability to observe, forecast, and track has improved so much that we know of storms that would not have been known even fifty years ago. Technology is a double edged sword.

  6. It's all about the agenda and funding. There have been at least half a dozen named storms with no visible clouds or precipitation around the central "eye" this year.

    If not for the 24/7 satellite coverage and news cycle, those "storms" never would have been noticed, except, perhaps, by some lonely mariners noticing a slight uptick in wind speed or a stray shower or two.

    Follow the money (and politics).