Record Breaking Start to the Hurricane Season

6 07 2012

By Dale C. S. Destin

Records continue to be broken or equalled this hurricane season, which is supposed to be near normal. Notwithstanding the near normal forecast, the season has had a very frantic start.  Even before the official start to the season on June 1, there were two preseason storms in May. Historically May averages one named storm every 10 years, so to have two storms in May is extremely unusual. As a matter of fact, the only other time this happened was in 1887, well over a hundred years ago. Further, this was only the third time on record two storms formed before the official start of the hurricane season – 1887, 1908 and now 2012.

With the formation of Debby, this makes it the first time on record that four storms formed before the end of June. Debby became the earliest fourth storm in history, beating Dennis of 2005 by 11 days. On average, the fourth named storm forms by August 23. June has never had more than three storms in a given season and this is the 12th time two or more storms have formed in a year in June.

The forecast for the hurricane season is still for near normal activity; however, with a quarter of the number of storms already in the history books, it is quite likely many of the groups who produce forecasts for the season must be scratching their heads and wondering what the hell may have gone wrong with the Atlantic. I now believe that this season will be marginally above normal and the next round of forecasts will reflect this. With four storms already gone, the average season producing eight named storms over the period August to October and the possibility of El Nino, an inhibiting factor, but forecast to develop very late in the hurricane season, I would say an above normal season is fast becoming the most likely outcome.

The x-factor continues to be whether there will be an El Nino episode and when. I look forward to the next round of seasonal forecasts, which are due early August. Will more records be equalled or tumble this year? Follow us as we keep you up to date with all the latest happenings of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

Tropical Cyclones up to the end of June:

Name                         Dates                        Max Wind (MPH)

TS Alberto             19-22 May                         60

TS Beryl                 26-30 May                        70

H  Chris                19-22 Jun                          75

TS Debby               23-27 Jun                         60

Record Number of Storms for May 2012…Could Antigua be affected?

29 05 2012

By Dale C. S. Destin

It seems like someone has forgotten to tell the Atlantic the forecast. All forecasts to date are indicating a near normal Atlantic Hurricane Season. The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30. Notwithstanding, the second pre-season storm – Beryl – for May and the year has formed (May 26 to present). This tied with May of 1887 for the most named storms (2) in May for a given year based on record, which goes back to 1851. The other pre-season storm was Alberto – May 19-22. Although Beryl poses no threat to Antigua, many years ago two pre-season hurricanes affected the area.

All forecasts to date for the Atlantic Hurricane season call for 7 to 15 named storms – a near normal season. The near normal forecasts are due primarily to near normal sea surface temperatures across the Equatorial Tropical Pacific Ocean and normal to below normal sea surface temperatures across the North Atlantic Ocean, particularly the Tropical North Atlantic. However, although there have never been two storms in the same year in the month of May, past pre-season storms have not portend anything about the activity of the upcoming season. Of the past five seasons with pre-season storms or hurricanes, two were above normal, two were near normal and one was below normal. Of course we have never seen two tropical storms in may; let’s see how the year turns out.

Although pre-season storms do not happen often, they are not unusual in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Seas and the Gulf of Mexico). The currently define Atlantic Hurricane Season, June 1 – Nov 30, accounts for about 97% of all Atlantic tropical cyclones (storms and hurricanes); of the remaining 3%, 48% occurs in May and the other months account for the rest.  Further, of the pre-season tropical cyclones, 80% occurs in May (See table 1). Off season tropical cyclones are most likely to occur in the Central to Western Atlantic Ocean and most do not make landfall. Of the tropical cyclones that did strike land, most have affected areas surrounding the Caribbean Sea. Cumulatively, these pre-season cyclones have caused the death of hundreds primarily in Hispaniola and Cuba. The strongest pre-season (and post-season) tropical cyclone was Hurricane Able in May 1951.

Antigua has been struck at least twice by pre-season tropical cyclones. The island was impacted by Hurricane Alice2  January 2 – 3, 1955. The system formed on December 30, 1954 and continued until January 6, 1955; this is the only Hurricane and the first of only two tropical cyclones to span two calendar years; the other tropical cyclone was Tropical Storm Zeta of 2005-2006. Previous to 1955, the island was impacted by (Unnamed) Hurricane One of 1908 March 7 – 8. The system formed on March 6 and dissipated March 9. Both hurricanes passed within 75 statute miles northwest of Antigua and also affected most of the rest of the Northeast Caribbean as the travelled from northeast to southwest. Both also dissipated in the Eastern Caribbean Sea near the islands (See Map 1 and 2)

The record shows that at least one tropical cyclone has occurred in every month of the year. Antigua has been affected by tropical cyclones in seven of twelve months of the year – January, March, July, August, September, October and November. For all of us in this part of the world, a certain level of preparedness is required even outside the hurricane season.

Map 1: Partial Plot of the 1954 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Tropical Cyclone Number 11 is Hurricane Alice2, which affected Antigua and the NE Caribbean in early January 1955.

Map 1: Partial Plot of the 1954 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Tropical Cyclone Number 11 is Hurricane Alice2, which affected Antigua and the NE Caribbean in early January 1955. Adapted from

Map 2: Partial Plot of the 1908 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Tropical cyclone number one is Hurricane One, which affected the NE Caribbean in March 1908.

Map 2: Partial Plot of the 1908 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Tropical cyclone number one is Hurricane One, which affected the NE Caribbean in March 1908. Adapted from

Total and Average Number of Tropical Storms by Month
Month Tropical Storms Hurricanes Antigua
Tropical Storms Hurricanes
Total Average Total Average Total Average Total Average
JANUARY 2 * 1 * 1 * 1 *
FEBRUARY 1 * 1 * 0 * 0 *
MARCH 1 * 1 * 1 * 1 *
APRIL 1 * 0 * 0 * 0 *
MAY 18 0.1 4 * 0 * 0 *
JUNE 82 0.5 32 0.2 0 * 0 *
JULY 113 0.7 54 0.3 6 * 1 *
AUGUST 362 2.2 230 1.4 36 0.2 18 0.1
SEPTEMBER 556 3.5 384 2.4 47 0.3 23 0.1
OCTOBER 319 2.0 192 1.2 10 0.1 3 *
NOVEMBER 87 0.5 58 0.4 4 * 1 *
DECEMBER 17 0.1 6 * 0 * 0 *
YEAR 1559 9.6 964 6.0 105 0.6 48 0.2
Table 1: *Less than 0.05%. The list excludes subtropical storms. Antigua
Storms and Hurricanes are those that passed within 120 statute of the
island. Data (first 4 columns) from

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