The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season Summary

30 11 2019

Dale C.S. Destin|

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season will come to an end midnight tonight. It will long be remembered for Super Category 5 Hurricane Dorian’s destruction of the northwest Bahamas. The season was also an above normal (or active) one, consistent with my initial forecast issued in April and the updates issued May, June, July and August.

2019 Atlantic basin tropical cyclone tracks.

The active year produced 18 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 3 major hurricanes and over 130 Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE). Overall, this year ranks 35 out of 169 on record, dating back to 1851, based on the ACE – the internationally accepted metric for determining the activity of hurricane seasons.

Quite interestingly and unprecedentedly, seven named storms lasted only 24 hours or less. The previous record was six in 2005. Notwithstanding, if this were 40 years ago, many of these short-lived storms would have gone undetected; they certainly would have during the pre-satellite era i.e. before 1966.

My forecast

My best performing forecast for the hurricane season – June 1 to November 30, was the one issued in July, which called for an ACE of 127, with a range of 71-198; 13 named storms, with a range of 9-16; 6 hurricanes, with a range of 4-9 and 3 major hurricane (at least Category 3), with a range of 2-5.

Most powerful and destructive hurricane

Dorian was the most powerful hurricane for this season and many other seasons – past and future. It tied with Hurricanes Wilma of 2005, Gilbert of 1988 and the Labour Day Hurricane of 1935 for second for the most powerful hurricane, based on sustained winds – 295 km/h (185 mph). Only Hurricane Allen of 1990 has had higher winds – 305 km/h (190 mph). However, Dorian became the strongest hurricane, with respect to winds, to make landfall in the Atlantic Basin. In other words, no other land mass in this part of the world, apart from Abaco Bahamas, has ever experienced such high sustained winds.

Dorian about to make landfall on Great Abaco Island , Bahamas – Sep 1, 2019

The season caused over USD 12 billion dollars in damage – the lowest since 2014, with Dorian causing at least 8.28 billion dollars. Of the 8.28 billion, 85% (7 billions) was caused in the Bahamas; this represents around 58% of the total damage for the year.

Hurricane Dorian’s destruction in the Bahamas. Picture courtesy Wikipedia

The death toll is at least 98, with at least 61 dead and at least 400 missing in the Bahamas. The total fatalities for 2019 could be the highest since 2017, when it was over 3300.

Rankings

Looking at the year with respect to the number of named storms – 18. This tied with 1969 for the eighth highest number of named storms for a year. It is the highest number of named storms since 2012.

Ranking of hurricane season by tropical storms (TSs). Graphic courtesy Wikipedia.

The 2019 season is the fourth active season in a row, dating back to 2016; however, 2019 was the least active of the period although it had the highest number of named storms. The main difference is that 2019 had fewer hurricanes.

Relative to the normal season of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, 3 major hurricanes and 106 ACE, this season had 50% more named storms than normal but the same number of hurricanes and major hurricanes. The ACE was 23% higher than usual. All metrics indicate that the 2019 season was near or above normal.

Other notable records are:

  • Dorian became the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico – the previous record was held by Hurricane Irma of 2017
  • Dorian impacted the Bahamas for 27 hours as a Category 5 hurricane – the longest ever on record for a Category 5 hurricane to impact one location.

Relative to Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua was brushed by Dorian on August 27, with the system passing about 110 miles southwest of the island. During the passage, it caused wind gusts of 44 to 63 km/h (28 to 39 mph).

The impact on the island was minor, as the system was quite disorganised due to it ingesting dry and dusty air from the Sahara Desert and being battered by hostile wind shear.

On average, Antigua and Barbuda gets one named storm passing within 105 nm every other year, one hurricane every three years and a major hurricane every seven years.

Why was the season active?

The season was active because of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic and below normal wind shear, particularly during the peak of the seas – August to September.

The absence of an El Nino also allowed for a more active season than normal.

Keep following for more on the just ended hurricane season, tropical cyclones and climate change and all things weather and climate. The next hurricane season starts June 1, 2020 – six months from now, let us all be prepared. Our first forecast for the next season will be issued around April 10.

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