Blog: Hurricane drought

Blog: Hurricane drought

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When we think of the word "drought" we typically think of it in a negative way- in terms of being below average in rain and being abnormally dry.

And while our part of North Carolina is experiencing a moderate drought, and other parts of the country are in an extreme to exceptional rain drought, there is another GOOD kind of drought we are also going through as a country- a hurricane drought!

The United States hasn't experienced the landfall of a major hurricane (category 3 or higher) in close to 10 years, which is the longest period of time that has passed without a major hurricane making landfall since records began in 1850.

Of course, those of you who have an interest in weather will most likely note by doing simple math, that the last landfalling major hurricane was in 2005, which of course went down in the history books itself as being the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.

There were 4 major hurricanes that made landfall that year- Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma - the last of which was on October 16, 2005.

So, how unusual is this hurricane drought? Timothy Hall, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute and Kelly Hereid, who works for reinsurance firm ACE Tempest Re, set to find out.

After running a statistical hurricane model, they found that a 9-year period without a major landfall is likely to occur once every 177 years on average.

The study did not delve into the meteorological causes behind this lack of major hurricane landfalls, and Hall said it appears it is a result of luck: "The last 9 hurricane seasons were not weak — storms just didn't hit the U.S.," he said.

"It seems to be an accident of geography, random good luck." He also said that even though a long period of time has passed, the probability that any given year will end the drought is still the same every year, and that each year is roughly independent of the year before.

The analysis found that in any given year there is a 39% probability of one or more major hurricane landfalls on the U.S and that that probability does not depend on the drought length. So what are the chances of this historic period coming to an end in 2015, based solely on the odds of the historical record? Thirty-nine percent, Hall said.

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