What 1887 & 2012 have in common with 2020's hurricane season
Bottom Line: Bertha’s time as a tropical storm wasn’t long. Technically only a few hours. Her biggest impact was the record setting Memorial Day weekend rain it brought us before she was even a named storm. Her place in history though, is notable. May named tropical storms or even hurricanes aren’t all that unusual. We average them every 5 to 6 six years – including four years in a row most recently. What is unusual is to have two.
The Atlantic Hurricane season’s tracking officially began in 1851. Since that time, we’ve had exactly two years in which two storms were recorded in May – 1887 and 2012. Already we’re pacing an unusual hurricane season before we officially get there. NOAA’s official forecast calls for an active hurricane season with a 60% chance of above average activity. The midpoint of their guidance called for 16 named storms this year, or 33% more than usual. The overall range was 13-19 named storms. If history is a guide, what did the 1887 and 2012 hurricanes seasons look like?
The 1887 hurricane season was the most active in recorded history at the time. It featured 19 total storms including 11 hurricanes. Florida was hit by one tropical storm and one hurricane. What’s remarkable about the volume of recorded activity is how much was recorded without the benefit of any technology. But even by today’s standards with use of advanced satellite technology, 1887 remains one of the busiest in recorded history.
The 2012 hurricane season is one that’s hard to forget for those in the northeast caught in the crosshairs of Super Storm Sandy. The scorecard on 2012 looks remarkably similar to its predecessor from 1887. 19 total storms, 10 hurricanes. Florida was hit by one tropical storm and though hurricane Isaac didn’t make landfall in Florida, it’s passage through the Florida Straits, on its way to Louisiana, spawned tornadoes throughout South Florida.
Over the prior 169 years we’ve had two hurricane seasons which have started out the way that this one has (or will once it officially begins). They each resulted in 19 storms and had two which impacted Florida. Those two seasons are tied for the third most active on record. Based on history you now know what we could be in store for. Not only does history suggest this will be a well above active hurricane season, history suggests it could be at the highest end of NOAA’s guidance. We might be fortunate if we were to “only” have 16 storms this year. Buckle up, hurricane season hasn’t officially started yet.