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2017 Hurricane Season Follows Year of Extremes

USF-authored study finds that 2016 season was the second-longest on record.

This graphic shows the storm tracks of the 2016 hurricane season, which a recent USF study finds was the second-longest season on record.

The 2016 hurricane season was the longest hurricane season since 1951, making it the second-longest hurricane season on record. That’s the conclusion drawn in a paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Lead author Jennifer Collins, PhD, associate professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida, writes: “Overall 2016 was notable for a series of extremes, some rarely and a few never before observed in the Atlantic basin, a potential harbinger of seasons to come in the face of ongoing global climate change.”

“The 2016 North Atlantic Hurricane Season: A Season of Extremes” examines 15 tropical storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes. The season was slightly above average when considering Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses to measure cyclonic activity.

Hurricane Alex started the 2016 season in January, causing minor damage in the Azores. The season ended 318 days later in late November, when Otto made landfall over southern Central America. Otto, a high-end Category 2 storm, was record-breaking in location and intensity.

In October, Hurricane Matthew became a Category 5 at the southernmost latitude on record for the North Atlantic Ocean. It was the first Category 5 in almost a decade and ended the longest stretch without one since 1950. Matthew claimed more than 600 lives, mainly in Haiti, and caused $15 billion in damage.

Up until that point, conditions had been extremely dry. A dramatic change in relative humidity led to the month generating more than 50 percent of the season’s ACE. It was also the first October to have two Category 4 or stronger storms.

Dr. Jennifer Collins is an American Geophysical Union-authorized “hurricane expert.” She is chapter president of the American Meteorology Society (AMS) in west central Florida, which has been recognized by the national AMS as “Chapter of the Year” for the last two years. Her chapter on paleotempestology was published in a book released last month. Her main research area focuses on the interaction between large-scale climatic patterns such as the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and seasonal patterns of hurricane activity. She also investigates how hurricane activity varies within the season and examines human behavior relating to hurricane evacuation. She is co-organizing the 6th international “Hurricane and Climate Change” summit in Greece this summer.

Story by Tina Meketa, University Communications & Marketing, image created by Daniel Gessman and Chris Mehta, graduate students in the School of Geosciences at USF

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