Ten-Year Gap in Major Hurricanes Continues

  • Released Friday, May 27, 2016
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Could the first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season break the 10-year “hurricane drought” record?

It has been a decade since the last major hurricane, Category 3 or higher, has made landfall in the United States. This is the longest period of time for the United States to avoid a major hurricane since reliable records began in 1850. According to a NASA study, a 10-year gap comes along only every 270 years.

The National Hurricane Center calls any Category 3 or more intense hurricane a “major” storm. It should be noted that hurricanes making landfall as less than Category 3 can still cause extreme damage, with heavy rains and coastal storm surges. Such was the case with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Timothy Hall, a research scientist who studies hurricanes at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York and colleague Kelly Hereid, who works for ACE Tempest Re, a reinsurance firm based in Connecticut, ran a statistical hurricane model based on a record of Atlantic tropical cyclones from 1950 to 2012 and sea surface temperature data.

The researchers ran 1,000 computer simulations of the period from 1950-2012 – in effect simulating 63,000 separate Atlantic hurricane seasons. They also found that there is approximately a 40% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall in the United States every year.

These visualizations show hurricane tracks from 1980 through 2015. Green tracks are storms that did not make landfall in the U.S.; yellow tracks are storms that made landfall but were not Category 3 or higher; and red tracks are Category 3 or higher hurricanes that did make landfall.

Research: The frequency and duration of U.S. hurricane droughts
Journal: Geophysical Research Letters, May 5, 2015

Hurricane tracks from 1980 through 2015. Green tracks did not make landfall in US; yellow tracks made landfall but were not Category 3 or higher hurricanes at landfall; red tracks made landfall and were Category 3 or higher. A corresponding chart on the right accumulates the number and types of storms for each year.

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Friday, May 27, 2016.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:48 PM EDT.


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