Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 Season Summary

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season was an above average season, with

20 cyclones attaining tropical depression status
19 cyclones attaining tropical storm status*
7 cyclones attaining hurricane status†
and 3 cyclones attaining major hurricane status

*In the NHC postseason analysis, an additional unnamed tropical storm was identified to have formed during the month of September. This means, that although 2011 only reached the letter "S" in tropical cyclone names, and 2010 reached "T", both seasons had the same number of tropical cyclones form.

†Nate was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane during the postseason analysis.

At the beginning of the season, I predicted that there would be

20 cyclones attaining tropical depression status
19 cyclones attaining tropical storm status
10 cyclones attaining hurricane status
and 6 cyclones attaining major hurricane status

The tropical depression and tropical storm predictions happened to be exactly correct, although there was a lower number of hurricanes and major hurricanes than I predicted. As with the 2010 season, the 2011 season was tied for third in overall number of tropical storms with 19. This was caused by an ongoing La Nina event that actually intensified towards the latter part of the season. However, many of these storms were short-lived, and this reflects the abundance of favorable conditions for formation, but not for intensification. These conditions included high wind shear over much of the Caribbean for long periods of time, and also large pockets of dry air associated with anticyclones, which worked their way into many developing systems.

Some notable cyclones and facts about the season include:

  • Hurricane Ophelia, the strongest storm of the season, attained Category 4 status at an unusually high latitude of 32.5° N
  • 2011 was the first season in which none of the first eight tropical storms (Arlene through Harvey) became a hurricane
  • Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane and major hurricane of the season, was also the first cyclone of hurricane strength to make landfall in the U.S. since Ike of 2008
  • An unnamed tropical storm formed in early September, the first cyclone to be recognized only in the postseason analysis since 2006
  • Nate was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane in postseason analysis, the first such instance since 2007
  • Hurricane Philippe was the longest lived storm in the Atlantic basin since 2008, but, despite its longevity, it affected no land.

Overall, the 2011 season was one of numerous, but weak, storms. The U.S. was affected much more than it had been in the previous two years with one hurricane and two tropical storm landfalls, but the damage associated with these systems was not severe.