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The myth of the “mild” hurricane season - The Galveston County Daily News: Weather Watch

September 28, 2016

The myth of the “mild” hurricane season

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Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 4:13 pm

Most people have heard that the experts are predicting an average to below-average season in terms of named tropical systems. This consensus was reflected the other day by NOAA’s official forecast calling for a comparatively slow season in the Tropical Atlantic Basin, as a developing El Niño pattern suppresses activity in the Atlantic while enhancing it in the eastern Pacific.

While it is nice to think we may get another break this year from serious tropical systems, the headlines accompanying the news release were somewhat misleading. One actually stated that the experts were calling for a “mild” season. In reality, the only “mild” season is one with no U.S. landfalls at all, and that is very rare.

Moreover, these forecasts give the illusion that the Texas Upper Gulf Coast is less likely to see a storm this year. In reality, that is borne out by our storm history. In fact, there is some evidence that the incidence of “home-grown” storms actually increases during some El Niño episodes, with storms more likely to develop in the Gulf of Mexico or the northwest Caribbean Sea, rather than the Atlantic.

At any rate, if we look at the 10 most damaging storms in Galveston County since 1900, we find (see table below), that four struck during below average seasons, two came during average seasons, and four came in above-average seasons (in terms of total number of named storms). In fact, if we look at six other storms that were slightly less damaging (1919, 1947,1949, Audrey, 1957, Frances, 1998, and Rita, 2005), we find the same pattern, with three coming in below average seasons, one in an average season and two in above average seasons).

Based on this, it would be a mistake to think that we will be immune from storms this year, just because the total number of named storms will be near or below the long-term average of 12 per season. To quote the old saying: “it only takes one storm to ruin the hurricane season”.

List of 10 most destructive storms since 1900 and total number of named storms each year

Year (storm)

Total Number of Storms  (average is 12 per year)









1961 (Carla)


1979 (Claudette)


1983 (Alicia)


1998 (Jerry)


2001 (Allison)


2008 (Ike)


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