Harvey, Irma, José, Maria… Should we still expect other hurricanes in the North Atlantic?


The hurricane season in the North Atlantic will not end until the last days of autumn. Statistically, the peak of the season is set for September 10. But to say that the hard part is over ...

Two Category 5 hurricanes have swept the West Indies in recent weeks. We have to go back to 2007 to find traces of two hurricanes of such intensity in the same season in the North Atlantic.

Statistically, the peak of cyclonic activity is set for September 10. However, nothing prevents the formation of a new high intensity hurricane in the North Atlantic.

At the end of the season, notes forecaster David Dumas, cyclone activity tends to move more in the Caribbean Sea and to touch Central America.

Harvey, Irma, José, Maria… Since the end of August, hurricanes have left little respite for the inhabitants of the Antilles and the southeast of the United States. It is not so much the frequency of these climatic phenomena that amazes climatologists and forecasters, but much more the sudden formation in the North Atlantic of high intensity hurricanes, with winds of more than 150 km / h.

Two Category 5 hurricanes in one season

"We are at four hurricanes considered major, that is to say category 3 or more on the Saffir-Simpson scale," recounts David Dumas, forecaster at Keraunos, the French observatory for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Irma and Maria even reached category 5 (winds greater than 250 km / h), the highest possible. We also know that Hurricane José has reached Category 4, but after the cyclone season, the American Hurricane Center, [which analyzes tropical phenomena in the North Atlantic from Miami] reviews the analysis of certain hurricanes that have occurred. And it would not be surprising if José actually reached category 5. "

Anyway, you have to go back to 2007 to have two category 5 hurricanes in the same season. It was much more in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina which had caused great damage in New Orleans. "Twenty-six cyclonic phenomena had been recorded in the North Atlantic over the entire season, including four category 5 hurricanes," says David Dumas, who qualified that year as "UFO".

A peak set for September 10, but ...

The 2017 “vintage” in the North Atlantic is still far from such records. But the season won't end until late November, when the northern hemisphere enters winter. "The waters are getting colder and dry air is taking up position in the tropical Atlantic zone, two factors which are not very favorable to the formation of hurricanes", specifies David Dumas.

Until then, nothing prevents a new major hurricane from forming in the Atlantic and sweeping over the West Indies. Asked about this prospect, Etienne Kapikian is careful not to take risks. "Impossible to say at the moment," he simply replies. David Dumas is just as careful. "The peak of a hurricane season is reached on September 10," he specifies however. Statistically, by analyzing the cyclonic seasons over the last 100 years, we noticed that it is around this date that there are the most hurricanes to form. After this date, the number very often decreases. "

Another point emphasized by the forecaster from Keraunos: “Statistically still, cyclone activity moves more in the Caribbean Sea and in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the season. The hurricanes that form then hit Central America more often than the West Indies. Hurricane Mitch, which hit Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala on October 22, 1998 with winds of 290 km / h, is one example.

"We had lost the habit of such phenomena in the North Atlantic"

But again, these are statistics to be used with caution. When it comes to hurricanes, the years go by and they don't necessarily look alike. "Over the past five years, very few major hurricanes have formed in the North Atlantic," says David Dumas. We had lost the habit of having phenomena of this magnitude in this area, while there were many in the Pacific Northwest. This year, it's the reverse. "

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