Now that Arctic air has made its way in to a good deal of the Lower 48, the Atlantic hurricane season is effectively over – at least from the threat of landfall along the U.S. coastline. Technically we have two weeks left in the season but at this point, it won’t matter, the United States has escaped another season without even the threat of a major hurricane hitting.
The season was forecast to be below the long-term average and that is exactly what happened, for the most part.
We will likely end up with a total of eight named storms, six of which became hurricanes. Two out of the six hurricanes made it to category three or higher with one of those, Gonzalo, making it to category four.
While we fell short of the average number of named storms (usually we see 10 in a year) the numbers of hurricanes and major hurricanes is pretty much on par with what is expected in a typical season. All in all, the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season was fairly close to average in terms of hurricanes but the best measurement, in my opinion, the ACE index, fell short once again.
ACE or Accumulated Cyclone Energy is a better way to quantify a hurricane season. Sure, we could have 15 named storms with 8 hurricanes forming. Many people would say that was a busy season. If we look deeper, how strong were those named storms? How long did they last? Were the hurricanes short-lived too? All of this matters in what we call the ACE index which measures the energy that is output from tropical cyclones. An average season typically sees an ACE score of around 100 or so. This year, it was roughly 65 which is considerably below the average. So, looking at the season from the ACE perspective, it was quite a bit below normal and this is what was forecast by most reliable agencies who produce seasonal hurricane forecasts.
As far as impact goes, which is what really matters when all is said and done, there was very little overall for the United States.
Early in the season, hurricane Arthur made landfall in extreme eastern North Carolina, mainly affecting the Outer Banks. Arthur attained category two intensity and passed over the Pamlico Sound before heading out in to the Atlantic. Storm surge related damage south of Oregon Inlet was moderate in some places, especially around Rodanthe where at least 4 feet of water accumulated on the back side of Arthur. The loss of holiday income over the traditionally busy 4th of July period was certainly a problem but the area rebounded quickly, allowing vacationers back in within a couple of days.
Arthur went on to bring flash flooding and widespread power outages to parts of New England before making landfall again in Nova Scotia as an extra-tropical storm. It is interesting to note that Arthur was regarded by many to be the worst storm since Juan in 2003. More than 300,000 people were without power and for some, it took more than 10 days to restore the grid. This just goes to show that it only takes one event, one storm, to make a season memorable.
No other Atlantic hurricanes threatened the United States this season. However, there were indirect effects such as high surf, rip currents, etc. from Bertha and Cristobal which passed between Cape Hatteras and Bermuda. Other than that, no other hurricanes passed anywhere near the coast of the United States and none were observed in the Gulf of Mexico. Overall, the impact to the U.S. was extremely low in 2014 bringing the extended period between major hurricane landfalls to well over nine years. It is also worth noting that Florida alone has not had a hurricane of any intensity strike the state since October of 2005. This is simply an incredible statistic and one that may well have its own issues down the road when the time comes that hurricanes once again impact the Sunshine State.
Bermuda was the unlikely recipient of two direct hits from tropical cyclones this season. Fay and Gonzalo both passed right over the island causing power outages and some damage to buildings. The disruption to the economy due to loss of tourism dollars will take some time to tally up but for the most part, Bermuda fared very well considering the impact from two systems less than a week apart.
I had two Atlantic hurricane field missions this season: Arthur and Gonzalo. Both resulted in excellent ground data and the deployment of special camera systems that were placed out in each hurricane to record the effects. I will have a separate blog post about Arthur and Gonzalo on November 30 and will have plenty of data, pictures and video to share then.
The east Pacific hurricane season was exceptionally busy and produced a few hurricanes that impacted the Baja peninsula and Mexico with either direct hits or left over moisture. Two of these events, Norbert and Odile, provided an opportunity for me to travel to the Southwest where flooding was a big concern due to the remnants of these two hurricanes making their way north in to the region. I have always wanted to study the impacts of tropical cyclones on the Desert Southwest and this year, I had that chance. I will go over what I learned on my November 30 blog post. Needless to say, it was quite interesting to see the interaction between tropical moisture from a dying hurricane on the landscape of the Southwest.
Unless something develops over the next two weeks, the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is done. While it was not a busy season, it was markedly more busy than 2013. In fact, the ACE index was almost twice as high as that of 2013. These two years of low overall activity have been great for coastal dwellers but we know that it cannot last. While I have no idea what 2015 will bring, I do think that there are signs that it will be busier than these past two seasons were. I will leave it to the seasonal forecast experts to make the call when the time comes but do not be surprised if this time next year, I am writing about a memorable 2015 season.
I will have another blog post on November 30 that will review the field missions that I undertook this past season. I will also have an exciting announcement regarding a special project that I am working on. Until then, travel safe if you’re headed somewhere special for Thanksgiving. I’ll have more here on November 30.
M. Sudduth 9:20 AM ET Nov 14