Tag Archives: 2011 hurricane season

Tornados Plus Drought Equal Active Hurricane Season

Robert Brookens, President of Hurricane Hollow Weather Corp, Host of the Barometer Bob Show in Jacksonville, Florida shared with me that Florida has an old saying. A dry May indicates an active hurricane season for the state. Extremely interesting old saying!

Since 1960, Florida has had 10 years with drought like conditions during the month of May. This indicator appears to have been highly reliable as a precursor to late season, high category, landfall hurricanes. Combined with peak tornado seasons, it portends an active fall. Thanks to Bob for sharing:

tornado hurricane comparison2
Data PDF

The correlation of data is significant:
9/8/1965 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Betsy, Category 4, FL, LA
9/20/1967 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Beulah, Category 5, TX
9/14/1982 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Debbie – Category 4, PR, BM missed mainland
9/22/1989 – Hurricane Hugo – Category 5, SC
10/1/2000 – Year after PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Keith – Category 4, MX missed U.S.
8/3/2004 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Alex Category 3, NC
8/13/2004 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Charley, Category 4, FL
9/5/2004 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Francis, Category 4, FL
9/16/2004 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Ivan, Category 4, FL, Category 1 TX
9/26/2004 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Gene – Category 3, FL
8/21/2007 – Hurricane Dean – Category 5, MX missed U.S.
9/4/2007 – Hurricane Felix – Category 5, NI missed U.S.
9/1/2008 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Gustav – Category 4, LA
9/13/2008 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Ike – Category 4, TX
10/16/2008 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Omar – Category 4 VI missed U.S.
11/14/2008 – PEAK tornado year – Hurricane Paloma – Category 4 Cuba dissipated before striking FL
August – October 2011. – PEAK tornado year – Drought conditions signal Heightened Hurricane Alert (HHA)

All residents who choose to live along our coasts should be prepared for hurricanes. It is part of our civic reponsibilities. In 1969, my grandmother, who had lived on the Gulf in Gulfport, Mississippi for 80 years had seen her number of storms and felt “old and wise” enough to ride out Camille. Thank God my aunt pulled her out of her antebellum home the day before Camille hit. Two days later, we returned to the site where the house had once stood for 120 years. It was gone but for the front steps.

Unfortunately, human nature is involved. Florida, for example, has escaped real dangers since 2004 and while our net population has only grown by 2 million since then, the turnover has been much greater, meaning perhaps 25 of the population did not experience the hazards of 2004 and do not even have those experiences to drawn upon.

Since 1995, hurricane potential has been above average and forecasters have rightly stated such. The prognostications, however, have begun to sound like our terrorist threat levels. Not only do our average citizens get complacent but, facing our country’s recession, our businesses, some that have responsibilities for life and limb, have made lax choices between current budget items and hurricane preparation expenses that endanger their preparedness and those for whom they are responsible.

The simple correlations that I have shown are enlightening that even in a higher multi-year period of expected heightened activity, there are indications that may help to alert those who have lessened their preparedness. They also point to patterns that should be explored more in depth by those in the field.

The joke that if meteorologists could really give five day forecasts, we would only need to see them once every five days is funny but fails to give credit to a profession that has made great strides in accuracy during the last few decades. However, that said, I expect that just as most did not foresee the advancement of computers when I was a boy, there are yet undiscovered methods of meteorological science that will eventually dramatically improve our ability to predict weather, including the seasonal patterns to which I have alluded.

We will need them to be better able to financially and operationally rapidly respond to large scale disasters and save more lives with limited resources and great geographies. The current post Katrina method of mounting large response forces near expected landfall, as an example, is extraordinarily expensive and draws resources away from coastal areas less probabilistically endangered. The potential exists that as Katrina becomes more a distant memory and budgets more a political reality, that the choice of massing assets ahead of hurricanes will wane. Given current forecast capabilities, probabilistic choices regarding life and cost are being made. New discoveries will make response capabilities more sustainable in the long run.

All that said, the correlations that I have shown do point to a heightened probability above what has been traditionally discussed. It is up to this body to decide how to use the data. Having seen its correlation, I will share it with my customer base as I have gladly shared it here. Given the human nature we have discussed, perhaps it will seasonally have someone in need respond as my aunt did the day before Camille.


Filed under Emergency Response

2011 Tornados Predict a Major Hurricane Landfall

Joplin, Missouri, the scene of the deadliest tornado in our nation’s history, with winds exceeding 190 mph, left a path of destruction ¾ of a mile wide and 4 miles long through the heart of the city. In the aftermath, we have seen America’s traditional shelters of protection, hospitals and schools, destroyed in Joplin. With entire communities mourning the loss of 116 lives thus far and miles of seeming unearthly destruction, America is unnerved. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Joplin, and community now involved in their rescue under extreme conditions.

Joplin is the most recent in a year of extraordinary weather that has recorded a historic flood height on the Mississippi, and a record super tornado outbreak. Patterns seem heightened causing concern for the upcoming June 1st start of the hurricane season. With May 22nd beginning National Hurricane Preparedness Week, Gerry Bell, forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, believes this hurricane season will compare to our most active. Does this deadly 2011 tornado season portend a major hurricane landfall in a season predicted to be above normal by Colorado State University?

Unfortunately, this year’s tornados do suggest the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will see their share of destruction in 2011. First, hurricane patterns do loosely follow tornados. While both form in warm, damp air when winds blow into each other from opposite directions, the localized drivers are quite different. However, seasonal, annual and global patterns correlate. In years during or immediately following peak tornado activity, major landfall hurricanes have occurred. Hurricane Betsy landed in 1965, Agnes in 1972, Andrew in 1992, Charley in 2004, Katrina in 2005, and Gustav and Ike in 2008, all correlating to peak tornadic activity. This pattern does not bode well for 2011, with Colorado State University predicting probability of hurricane landfall in 2011 at 72%.

Second, both tornadic and hurricane activity is escalating. In the ‘50s we averaged 400 tornados per year, in the ‘70s 800 per year, in the ‘90s 1,200. In 2004, the same year that Florida was ravaged by four hurricanes, we had over 1,800 tornados. Between the ‘50s and ‘80s, with the exception of 1969, the year of Camille, America had milder patterns of hurricanes. However, since then, hurricanes have been much more active, deadly, and costly. 2010 was actually a year of peak hurricane activity with an incredible 12 hurricanes that missed landfall due in part to La Nina.

Which brings us to our third forewarning, the expected ending of La Nina prior to this hurricane season. During years of La Nina, America has been blessed with mild hurricane landfalls, but in seasons immediately after La Nina, America has experienced major destruction including Betsy in 1965, Agnes in 1972, Hugo in 1989, and Ike and Gustav in 2008.

Finally, I would be remiss in not at least mentioning increasing sunspot activity. 2011’s active weather season follows several years of relative calm corresponding to unusually low sunspot activity, but the 11 year sunspot cycle has begun again. Scientists believe that increased sunspot activity causes the ocean’s surface to warm across the subtropical Pacific, leading to more evaporation and water vapor. The trade winds then carry this vapor to the rainy areas of the western tropical Pacific, fueling heavier rains and reinforcing active weather patterns.

Hurricanes Betsy and Hugo both occurred at the start of sunspot activity such as we are now experiencing. Sunspots along with other significantly correlating data points suggest an overactive hurricane season with the potential for major landfall in 2011. 2011, already a difficult year for America, may well be remembered for its major emergencies and America’s enduring response. God Speed.

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Filed under Emergency Response