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Active Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends

UPDATED December 1, 2011

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Chad Merrill


The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season is officially over and what a busy year it was for the tropics! This year continued the active trend that began in 1995.

In total, 19 tropical storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes (Irene, Katia and Ophelia) formed this year. While the number of tropical storms was the third highest since records started (tying with 1887, 1995 and 2010), the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes was only slightly above the long-term average of 6 and 2 respectively.

The first storm, Tropical Storm Arlene, formed on June 29 while the last one, Tropical Storm Sean, formed on November 8 and quickly dissipated by November 11. An early September storm, Nate, was not upgraded to a hurricane due to its poor structure on satellite imagery. However, data received in post-analysis from Eco-1, an oil rig located in the southeast quadrant of the storm, indicated a 1-minute sustained wind gust of 83 mph a few hours following peak winds measured by aircraft, so it was upped to a hurricane.

The most newsworthy storm of the season for the U.S. was Irene. It was the only hurricane to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Ike struck southeast Texas in 2008. Irene was also the most significant tropical system to strike the Northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991. "Irene broke the `hurricane amnesia` that can develop when so much time lapses between landfalling storms," said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., director of NOAA`s National Weather Service.

Tropical Storm Lee was another storm that caused quite a stir. Due to its slow movement north from the Gulf of Mexico at the beginning of September, it dropped up to 20 inches of flooding rain in the Southeast before dissipating in the Tennessee Valley, but its remnants produced more flooding farther north into the piedmont of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

2011 marks a record six straight years without any major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) making landfall in the U.S. The last major hurricane that made landfall was Wilma in 2005.

The active Atlantic Hurricane season falls in line with forecasts issued last spring. WeatherBug forecasters had predicted an above average year due in part to warmer than average Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a weak La Nina with 13 to 14 named storms, 7 to 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had forecasted 12 to 18 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 6 major hurricanes. Meanwhile, meteorologists at Colorado State also forecasted an above average season with 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes.

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