U.S. experiencing record hurricane drought, just 4 strikes in 7 years

The U.S. is experiencing a remarkable, record drought from hurricane hits, with only four strikes in the past seven years.

That's the fewest in any 7-year stretch since records began a few years before Abraham Lincoln was elected president.

One of the only comparably quiet eras occurred in the late 1970s through the early 1980s, according to meteorologist Neal Dorst of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, which prepared the analysis of weather data for USA TODAY.

The record quiet streak comes on the heels of what was among the most active seven years on record. From 2002-2008, 18 hurricanes hit the U.S., tied for the most in a seven-year stretch.

The four hurricanes to hit the U.S. since Ike in 2008 were Irene in 2011, Isaac in 2012, Sandy in 2012 and Arthur in 2014. Sandy was technically a "post-tropical cyclone" at landfall. Accurate records for U.S. hurricane strikes go back to 1851.

In addition, the nation is also in a 11-year record streak with no strike from a major hurricane, defined as a Category 3, 4 or 5. The last such storm to meet that criteria was Hurricane Wilma, with 120-mph winds that battered Florida and killed 35 people nearly 11 years ago on Oct. 24, 2005.

In addition to the USA's major hurricane streak, hurricane-prone Florida is also enjoying an overall quiet stretch, which also started with Wilma in 2005. Several tropical storms lashed the state during the same period of time, however.

While luck plays a major role in the dearth of hurricane hits, there's also a meteorological reason behind the trend.

Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University said that for much of the past 10 years, an area of low atmospheric pressure known as a trough set up over the U.S. East Coast during the prime hurricane months of August to October, helping steer the storms away from the coast and out to sea.

"It's hard to say which percentage is which, but definitely both luck and steering currents have played a role," he added.

After the overly active 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, which included Katrina in 2005, there was a rush to link the frenzied activity to man-made global warming. Many peer-reviewed scientific studies since then have been inconclusive about such a relationship.

NOAA said it is premature to say whether global warming is causing any detectable changes in Atlantic hurricane activity. If El Ninos grow stronger or more frequent, as some studies suggest could happen as a result of climate change, that could decrease hurricane activity in the Atlantic while boosting it in the Pacific, Klotzbach said.

The hurricane drought is also a concern for officials and emergency managers, who worry about complacency.

FEMA and the National Hurricane Center frequently remind people "it only takes one." Even in a season with few hurricanes such as 1992, Andrew still smashed into Florida and more than 20 years later remains one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to make landfall in the U.S..

"The farther we get from the last hurricane, the closer we get to the next one," hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
TRENDING VIDEOS