Quiet season?

July 11, 2007

(Note: After going back to look up the tidbit from Glen Reynolds that inspired this, I discovered that the ever alert Brendan Loy posted a response generally similar to what I had in mind. I press on regardless. Please bear in mind that this is not directed at Mr. Reynolds himself; it is the people that write stuff that give people like Glen the impression that things are slow/quiet that I’m aiming at. See Brendan’s post for one example.)


Calling a hurricane season slow when it’s July is a little bit like calling a baseball game low-scoring when it’s only in the second inning. It is a particular folly when the season has not been a shutout, but rather are already two named storms in the books. This becomes evident when one examines where we stood on this day in the previous seasons of the current active cycle:

  • 1995: Two named storms. The distinctive moment of the season (four storms at once) came in the last week of August.
  • 1996: Two named storms (one of them a category three hurricane, which would put that season ahead,qualitatively.)
  • 1997: Two named storms. Three more formed in July, but, more notably, none formed in August. El Niño conditions made for a quiet season.
  • 1998: Zero named storms. All of the action, which included a category five hurricane, came after 27 July.
  • 1999: One named storm. Nothing formed in July, but five major hurricanes formed later.
  • 2000: Zero named storms. As in 1999, nothing formed in July, but the rest of the season was active.
  • 2001: One named storm. The hurricanes didn’t come until September. (Because the one storm Tropical Storm the only tropical storm to have its name retired, one could rank 2001 ahead of this season qualitatively).
  • 2002: One named storm. As in 2001, June, July, and August went by without a hurricane.
  • 2003: Two named storms in the books, with a third in progress.
  • 2004: Zero named storms. The”fun” didn’t start until July 31.
  • 2005: The Season Like No Other is the only season that truly makes everything else look quiet. It was at this very time two years ago when the fifth storm, Emily got its name. Looking back on things, the first feeling I had that it was not a normal season was on July 9th, when Dennis became a category four in the Gulf of Mexico . That general sentiment was reflected in a choice quote 5 PM Emily discussion on July 12th : THE 2005 HURRICANE SEASON SEEMS TO HAVE LITTLE INTEREST IN CLIMATOLOGY. So, even in the most active season on record, it took getting into July to start to have a clue that something unique was going on.
  • 2006: One named storm. El Niño conditions made for the quietest season since 2007.

So, out of the 12 seasons, 2007 is currently ahead of 7 quantitatively, and on par with an additional 3. Qualitatively, there’s only 3 seasons that clearly stand in front of it. If this season has been ‘slow’ up to this point, it’s because hurricane seasons are usually slow before August.

A different approach to underline this point: When do the notorious storms from? Since the practice began in 1954, there have been 67 storm names retired. Here is how they break-out by the month in which they formed:

June: 3

July: 4

August: 23

September: 26

October: 10

November: 1

90% of the storms that had their name retired formed after July. From this it is clear that, lacking a strong El Niño already in progress, one has to wait until after Septembr before being able to reasonably state that it’s a quiet, uneventful season.


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