Monday, November 19, 2012

Are We Returning To The Weather Patterns Of Past Decades, Part one

Hi it's Rebecca here, we've been hearing terms like unprecedented in describing the weather over the last 3 years. But is it really unprecedented?  I thought I would do a post that covers this. Due to the length of the subject I will most likely break it down into three or four parts. Part one will deal with the hurricanes seasons of 1954,1955, and 1960. It will try to show you, what we've been seeing is nothing truely execptional; when it comes to tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin.

Right after Super storm Sandy stuck, back in the end of October, former Vice President and global warming advocate Al Gore was making the news circuit on TV. Al Gore was claiming that global warming was to blame for Hurricane Sandy’s wrath. Gore said, “The storms are getting stronger. The stronger storms are getting more frequent. And you know, this is the second time in two years that part of Manhattan has been shut down … But the evidence is now so overwhelming.”

In an interview on Fox News a few days later. Joe Bastardi, chief meteorologist at WeatherBell Analytics called Gore’s claims “stunningly ignorant or stunningly deceptive.” According to Bastardi, such storms are nothing new, “In the 1950s 10 major hurricanes ran the eastern seaboard. Six hit the Carolinas northward in two years.” Bastardi also said, referring to Al Gore "He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And ever since he shot his mouth off about Katrina, we’ve seen total global tropical activity go to record low levels. Just because something happens in your backyard two years in a row, it has nothing to do with the total picture"

In 2006 Bastardi showed evidence that hurricane activity was going to look like the 1950's. He based this on teleconnections patterns. He showed evidence that the cycle of a colder Pacific and warmer Atlantic, leads to increased tropical cyclone activity. When we were in the 50's we had a warm PDO and AMO; but then the PDO switched to the cool side. This lead to warm dry summers and huge droughts.

I'm not a follower of Joe Bastardi in anyway. I've disagreed with him in several areas. But in this I feel his evidence is sound.

If you've follow me on this blog or on my Facebook weather page; you know I'm a big believer in concentric patterns, be it weather or other things in nature and across the universe. With this in mind, research done by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) reveals just such a thing when it comes to hurricane activity For the Atlantic and Caribbean NCAR has found a 20-30 year cycle for hurricane frequency The last intense period was in the 1950's and 1960's with a lag between 1970 and 1994. We've been seeing an uptick in the number of Atlantic hurricanes over the last few years. Since the number of hurricanes is increasing, so are the chances for landfall everywhere along the east coast of the U.S.

One term I want you to know is a Cape Verde-type hurricane. This type of hurricane is one that that develops into a tropical storm within 600 miles of the Cape Verde Islands and then becomes a hurricane before reaching the Caribbean.

Looking Back:

Looking back at hurricane activity for the last 160 years. The 1850s to the mid-1860s was fairly inactive, the late 1860s through the 1890s were busy and the first decade of the 1900s were quiescent. The mid 1930s through the 60's were active. We saw low activity 1970-1994, Since the mid 90's hurricane activity has started to become active again.

  The last intense period of hurricane activity was the 1950's into the 60's. Besides meteorology one of my other passions is history. History is many things, but mainly it's a study of what people were thinking and why they thought that way. There's two things that never cease to amaze me about people; the first being how they think things have never been as bad as they are right now. The second is how human societies can sweep anything under the proverbial rug.

The last 50 years on average have been quiet landfalling hurricane wise. Because of the way people think; we've seen a lot of development along the coastline. So even though we can forecast hurricanes more accurately, we are more vulnerable than ever to landfalling tropical cyclones.  

A few of the greatest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin: 

The deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States was the Galveston Hurricane. In 1900 this hurricane resulted in an estimated 8,000 -12,000 direct fatalities when it made landfall in Galveston, Texas.      

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was a category 5 hurricane on record to hit the United States. take which was overall a fairly quiet season by most standards with six named storms the entire year. Like Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, the Labor Day Hurricane underwent explosive growth in a very short time. Only a mere fledgling tropical cyclone entering the Labor Day Weekend in September, 1935, the Labor Day Hurricane rapidly intensified to the most intense hurricane on record at that time with a barometric pressure of 892 mb. Winds were as high as 200 mph.      

The death toll will never be completely known, I've seen 400-600 in many books. However, I know those figures to be wrong. World war 1 veterans and been working on a railroad bridge that was going to connect the Keys to the mainland. The storm was powerful enough to completely destroyed what had been constructed prior to the Labor Day Hurricane. In a telegraph sent to President Roosevelt on September 8, 1935 Colonel Ijams said "LOSS OF LIFE FROM SEPTEMBER 2, 1935 HURRICANE IN FLORIDA CAUSED BY TIDAL WAVE, STOP PROXIMATE 250 MPH WINDS STOP TENTATIVE DEAD AND MISSING 684 STOP WILL INVESTIGATE ..."    

In addition to the veterans, there were those who followed the work camps. As well as most of those from the Seminole tribe were not in any official census records. The bridge project has been dubbed The Bridge That Never Was.      

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 (Long Island Express) slammed into Long Island, N.Y., without warning as a category 3 storm. It had been nearly a century since New England had been pummeled by a major hurricane, and many did not see the storm coming. At least 700 people were killed, while 9,000 homes and buildings were destroyed. The storm was so powerful, it created 12 new inlets on Long Island.    

The 1950's were very active. If you take a look back, you will find names like Carol, Connie, Diane, Donna, Edna, Hazel.

Before I get started there's one thing I want to bring to your attention. The first US named hurricane (unofficially named) was George, which hit in 1947. They started naming them more or less officially in 1950. Also from 1953 through 1979, only women's names were used, often the same names were used year after year when things were getting started. The National Hurricane Center started using mixed gender names in 1979.        

The 1950 Atlantic hurricane season was a active season with sixteen tropical storms, with eleven of them developing into hurricanes. Eight of these hurricanes were intense enough to be classified as major hurricanes (On the Saffir-Simpson scale a category 3 with wind of 111 mph or greater). The high number of major hurricanes make 1950 the record holder for the most tropical cyclones of such intensity in a single season.        

 In the years1954-1955 there were a total of six hurricanes that affected the Carolinas, the Mid Atlantic and New England.        

1954 Hurricane Season:      

The 1954 hurricane season was unusual in several ways. In total, there were 11 tropical storms, 8 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes ( There could have been one more major hurricane. Dolly never made landfall. But, her winds were estimated to have been 100 -115 mph by airplane. Of those 11 tropical cyclones, five of them had an impact on the United States. Two of the tropical systems Alice and Barbara had an effect on Texas. The other three had a landfall on the East Coast. Having almost half of the Atlantic Basin tropical cyclones impacting the U.S. is nothing short of extraordinary

Another unusual feature in 1954 was the absence of tropical cyclones in Florida, Georgia, and the east Gulf States and the passage of three hurricanes through the North Atlantic States and New England.

One other curious fact is none of the 1954 tropical cyclones formed in the western Atlantic; in fact, all were charted west of longitude 65" W, with the exception of Hazel which had its origin between 55' and 65' W. Three of the major hurricanes, Carol, Edna, and Dolly developed only a short distance east of the Bahamas, while Hazel, also a major hurricane, formed in the eastern Caribbean. Of these four, Carol, Edna, and Hazel went on to played mayhem from the Carolinas into New York and New England. All of this in only a 7-weeks, August 30 to October 15 period.      


She formed near the Bahamas on August 25th. On the 27th, when the hurricane was moving east of North Carolina land stations reported category 1 and 2 winds of 90 to 100 mph , with tropical force winds at Cherry Point North Carolina. Carol passed just east of Cape Hatteras with winds between 75 mph to 125 mph. She intensified further as it accelerated northward, striking eastern Long Island as a strong Category 2 or perhaps a Category 3 hurricane. She made her final landfall on Old Saybrook Connecticut late in the day on the 31st. Within a few hours, the hurricane became extra-tropical over New Hampshire, later dissipating over Quebec.      

Across New England , Carol caused a surge in Narragansett Bay that reached 14.4 ft. The hurricane destroyed about 4,000 homes, 3,500 cars, and 3,000 boats. Damage totaled $460 million (1954 dollars), and there were 60 deaths


 Hurricane Edna came close on the heels of Carol, forming east of the Lesser Antilles on September 2. She was moving northward and passed just east of Cape Hatteras early in the night of the 10th and winds of 75 mph. Soon after, Edna started her turn to the very north northeast closely paralleling Carol's path just 11 days earlier. She moved rapidly northeastward, after becoming a major hurricane she pasted very close to Cape Cod on September 11th. Later that night she made landfall in eastern Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Edna accounted for 20 casualties, mostly from people drowning, and over $42 million (1954 dollars) in damage, mainly from the Long Island area northward across New England. Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island measured 95 mph winds.      


Hazel came along a month later. She was an extraordinary hurricane for an amazing hurricane season. Hazel formed on October 5 just east of the Windward Islands and intensified into a major hurricane on her way across the Caribbean, winds were 115 mph. on the 7th and 125 mph. on the 8th, as estimated by reconnaissance aircraft.      

After killing as many as 1,000 people in Haiti, Hazel set her sights on the United States. Storm warnings were hoisted at 1100 EST on October 14th from Charleston, S. C., northward to the Virginia Capes, and the remainder of the coast northward to New England was placed on the alert by Washington and Boston Weather Bureau offices (the forerunner of the National Weather Service).      

She made landfall on October 15th near the border between North and South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane. Moving at extreme speed on a north-northwest track, sometimes at 60 mph. In 12 hours she passed through the western suburbs of Washington, D. C., and spun across Pennsylvania and New York where she merged with an existing powerful cold front. Before moving into Ontario and stalling over the Greater Toronto Area. During this time span Hazel mostly maintained her intensity. Peak wind speeds of 90 mph. or over were reached near and east of the center from the Carolinas through New York. She impacted several states, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. It would be 6 years before another hurricane would affect even more eastern seaboard states.    

Hazel resulted in 20 deaths on the Carolina beaches and about $163 million (1954 dollars) in damage to the Carolina beaches and the interior of North Carolina. The death toll for the area along the hurricane's path north of the Carolinas into the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario was about 149 with 78 to 81 of the total in Canada.      

Even though the Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1st and ends November 30th. The 1954 season wasn't done. The final storm of the season, Alice, developed on December 30 from a trough of low pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean in an area of unusually favorable conditions. The storm moved southwestward and gradually strengthened to reach hurricane status. It persisted into the following calendar year, passing through the Leeward Islands on January 2. Alice reached peak winds of 80 mph  before encountering cold air and turning to the southeast. It dissipated on January 6 over the Caribbean Sea.

Here is a video that shows the tropical cyclone tracks in 1954. 


1955 Hurricane Season:        

There were 13 tropical cyclones in 1955, of which 10 attained hurricane force, Three of the storms stuck the East Coast.        


Hurricane Connie was the first of three hurricanes that hit North Carolina in 1955. It hit as a Category 3 hurricane, having weakened from a Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane Connie caused one of the most disastrous and costly floods of record in the northeastern States. The hurricane's slow movement on the l0th, l1th, and 12th resulted in heavy rainfall from North Carolina northward across the northeastern States to the interior of New England. The rains did not let up until the dying remnants of the hurricane had moved into the Great Lakes region on the 14th. The rainfall amounted to 2 to 8 inches in eastern North Carolina and ranged upward to 10 to 12 inches from the Chesapeake Bay area to extreme southern New York, damage in the United States was $40 million (1955 dollars). On August 14 Connie dissipated over the eastern Great Lakes.



Hurricane Diane was the second of three hurricanes that hit North Carolina this season. It hit as a minimal hurricane. The storm turned northward across Virginia, then it turned northeastward and moved back into the Atlantic near Long Island, New York on August 19. The sections worst hit were Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and southeastern New York, although there was some serious flooding from North Carolina northward. The sections worst hit were Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and southeastern New York; where significant flooding occurred. These same areas had received heavy rain from Hurricane Connie only five days before. The mountain streams quickly became raging torrents and began flooding the valleys within a few hours. The torrential rains broke all existing records in many places. At Windsor Locks, Conn., 12.05 inches fell between 10 a.m., August 18 and 9 a.m., August 19. The previous record at Hartford, extending back 90 years, showed a 24-hour maximum of only 6.2 inches. Damage has been estimated at $754,706,000 (1955 dollars)  of which $600,000,000 occurred in New England. These figures are admittedly incomplete and direct plus indirect damage would indicate that Diane earned the designation of "the first billion dollar hurricane." Approximately 200 persons lost their lives, all from Diane's floods.        


1one developed in an easterly wave which passed through the Cape Verdes on September 6 and the circulation was still quite weak on the 11th; but Ione began to develop on this date and reached hurricane intensity during the night of September 14-15. Ione then pursued a general northwesterly course toward the North Carolina coast. 'It reached greatest intensity on the 17th when a central pressure of 938 mb. was reported with maximum winds of 125 mph. By the time the hurricane reached the North Carolina coastline on the 19th, the central pressure had filled to about 960 mb and the maximum winds had decreased slightly. Ione was the third hurricane to pass through eastern North Carolina within six weeks and the fourth within eleven months. Ione damaged mostly crops in eastern North Carolina. The estimates were around 88 million (1955 dollars). Ione caused seven fatalities.        


Even though she made landfall in Mexico. I wanted to mention Hurricane Janet. She was another Cape Verde hurricane. She formed around the 11th of September. However, as a tropical cyclone, Janet wasn't officially discovered until it attained hurricane status on September 21. That's when, pilot reports from the airlines Air France and Iberia indicated the presence of a weak tropical disturbance at about Latitude 13.5' N. and Longitude 53.0' W. On September 25th a hurricane hunter aircraft reported conditions that showed rapid intensification was in process. At 0830 EST of the 26th, Lt. Comdr. Windham with a crew of eight and two newspapermen, on Hurricane Hunter mission Snowcloud, reported in at Latitude 15.4' N. and Longitude 78.2' W. that they were about to begin penetration of the main core of the storm. That was the last transmission from the plane, no trace of the aircraft or her crew were ever found. This is the only Hurricane Hunter mission lost in the Atlantic. Janet was the most powerful hurricane of the 1955 Atlantic hurricane season and is still one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record. It made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, causing catastrophic damage and at least 687 deaths in the Lesser Antilles, Yucat√°n Peninsula.

   Here is a video that shows the tropical cyclone tracks in 1955


1960 Hurricane Season:    

The 1960 Atlantic hurricane season wasn't very active. Only seven tropical cyclones formed in the Atlantic Basin. Four of these reached hurricane status. Two of the storms became major hurricanes. Donna became category 5, Ethel also briefly became a major hurricane, but rapidly weakened prior to landfall. You may find this interesting, of the seven tropical cyclones, five ended up impacting the United States. There may have been below-average activity, But Donna more than made up for it with her ferocity.        

The five systems that hit the U.S., were Tropical storm one which went into Texas, Tropical storm Brenda which went up the East Coast, Hurricane Donna, I will talk about her in a minute, Ethel which impacted the Gulf Coast, and Florence, she made landfall in Florida and drifted over the state for 24 hours, she then went into the Gulf where she made a turn, made another landfall on September 26th on the Alabama / Florida border.      


Hurricane Donna was a Cape Verde-type hurricane.

Hurricane Donna was the most destructive hurricane of the season. Donna produced hurricane-force winds in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic states, and New England.

On September 9th, Donna was over the Florida Keys with sustained winds reaching approximately 138 mph and gusts up to at least 178 mph (near the storm’s center). As a ridge of high pressure in the north began to decay around 10 September and the Westerly began to increase, Donna recurved and crossed the Florida Peninsula on 11 September. Despite its path over land, the storm remained intense and reorganized when it moved back into the Atlantic. In the Mid-Atlantic states, Elizabeth City, North Carolina reported 83 mph sustained winds, while Manteo, North Carolina reported a 120 mph gust. After moving back over the Atlantic; Donna accelerated as she move north northeast, She brushed Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. She crossed Long Island and then the New England region on 12 and 13 September (as a Category 3 system in Long Island, Category 1 or 2 everywhere else). In New England, Block Island, Rhode Island reported 95 mph sustained winds with gusts to 130 mph. Donna caused $400 million in damage (1960 dollars), and caused 364 deaths, of which 148 were directly caused by the storm.

There is evidence that she was acquiring extra-tropical characteristics by September 12th So she was most likely a hybrid system by the time she moved into the Northeast. This is most likely true of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 as well.

Here is a video that shows the tropical cyclone tracks in 1960

As you can see, the active tropical seasons over the last few years is nothing new. In fact, as far as landfalling tropical cyclones it can be a lot worse then anything we've seen so far . Based on what I shown you,  there is no proof that Sandy was unique in anyway. Nor is the fact that a nor'easter inpacked the same area  a week later. None of the storms I've mentioned have ever been attributed to global warming in a way. So if these hurricanes weren't caused by global warming, how can we say the ones happening now are being caused by global warming....It makes no sense to me. How about you?

All of these great disasters were swept under the rug. Other events took over the  media spotlight and soon the memories of the American people. So Development along the coast continued.  It was the same for more recent hurricanes like Camille in 1969 and Andrew in 1992, they were overshadowed by other world events.  So we now find ourselves more vulnerable than ever.

Well that's it for part one.  Part two will deal with some of the reasons for these active seasons. It will also talk more about Hurricane Sandy.

Part two



The Monthy Weather Review, "Hurricanes of 1954"

The Monthy Weather Review, "Hurricanes of 1955"

The Monthy Weather Review, "The Hurricane Season of 1960"


  1. I really don't see what makes Al Gore an expert on weather and global warming. Very good read.

  2. The earth climate has always gone through cycles. This is probably my favorite blog you've posted Rebecca.

  3. What did they use to check the wind speed back in the 1930's?

  4. They used cup anemometers.....They've had anemoneters around for hundreds of years.


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