2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recap

By By AccuWeather.com's Gina Cherundolo
December 02, 2010, 5:10:27 AM EST

As November draws to a close, AccuWeather.com takes a look back at the intense and unusual 2010 Atlantic hurricane season.

In what was one of the top five most active seasons on record, the United States was unusually spared most of the activity and severe conditions.

Intensity, Ranking and Comparison

The 2010 season yielded 19 named storms, matching AccuWeather.com Chief Hurricane Meteorologist Joe Bastardi's forecast of 18-21 total storms.

By simply looking at the number of storms, 2010 ties 1995's intense hurricane season, with both years having 19 named storms. Since 1950, only 2005 has surpassed this amount.

"This hurricane season definitely ranks in the top five," Bastardi said.

However, 1933's historically severe hurricane season had a total of 21 storms that were named numerically. This predates the National Weather Service's modern storm-naming system. It is also unknown how many tropical depressions 1933 had.

The season also had three occurrences of three simultaneously named systems. The first set occurred on Aug. 30, when Fiona joined hurricanes Earl and Danielle. It happened for the second time two days later, when Tropical Storm Gaston joined Hurricane Earl and Tropical Storm Fiona on Sept. 1. Later the same month, Hurricane Karl joined hurricanes Igor and Julia on Sept. 14.

In addition, there was a 36-day period from Aug. 21 to Sept. 26 where there was not a single full day without at least one active tropical cyclone.

One way to classify the intensity of a hurricane season is to use a measurement known as accumulated cyclone energy (ACE). This calculation, developed by NOAA, takes the number, strength and duration of storms into account, rather than the impact on land.

The 2010 season has an ACE index of 160, ranking 12th overall since 1950. The ACE indices of 1995 and 1933 were 228 and 213, respectively.

The 2010 season is also unique in that the number of storms exceeded that of the western North Pacific, which is very unusual, said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Ken Reeves.

"Since the satellite era, there's never been a year when the western North Pacific has had fewer storms than the Atlantic basin has," he said. "That's pretty remarkable."

Reeves added that the western North Pacific basin, where storms typically affect Japan, the Philippines and China, has not had a lot of storms this year because of La Niña, which cools much of the Pacific Ocean.

La Niña also creates lighter winds aloft as the air crosses into the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and southern United States. This lack of wind shear, which is a hurricane's biggest enemy, helps facilitate storm development in the Atlantic.

No Direct U.S. Landfalls

Another aspect of this particularly intense season was the landfalls. Since 1900, there has been no season with 10 or more hurricanes when none have made a direct landfall on the United States coastline.

Hurricane Alex made landfall as a Category 2 storm just south of the Mexican/Texas border, causing intense flooding and storm conditions in places such as Monterrey, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas. Langtry, Texas, received 14.38 inches of rain.

In late August, Hurricane Earl traced a path along most of the Eastern coastline. Although making landfall in Nova Scotia, the storm brought plenty of wind and rain to parts of the Outer Banks and New England.

"If Alex made landfall 75 miles to the north and Earl tracked 75 miles to the west, there would have been two landfalls on the U.S. coast," Bastardi said. "It's like a foul ball. Contact was made, but it didn't go exactly where it was supposed to."

Tropical Storm Nicole also brought more than 12 inches of rain to North Key Largo, Fla.


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Impacts

While the United States was spared most of the tropical activity this year, the same cannot be said for much of the Caribbean, where heavy flooding, intense winds and widespread destruction in some places led to disastrous conditions.

Hurricane Alex caused intense flooding and storm conditions in northern Mexico, with 10-25 inches of rain falling over a significant portion of land. Estanzeula/Monterrey, Mexico, received 35.04 inches of rain from June 29 to July 6. The storm also directly and indirectly killed dozens of people.

Tropical Storm Hermine also caused problems for Mexico and Texas in early September. The storm spread rain from southern Mexico up the coastline and as far north as parts of Missouri and Illinois.

The Yucatan Peninsula and Caribbean felt the effects of hurricanes Karl, Paula and Richard, as well as tropical storms Matthew and Nicole.

Tropical Storm Matthew was the deadliest storm of the season, killing 126 people in Central America.

The last named system of the season, Hurricane Tomas, glanced earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The storm passed through the Windward Passage, just west of most of Haiti's coastline, but the storm nonetheless caused heavy rain and wind on Haiti and the Windward Islands, including Barbados.

It was feared that the deluge of rain would exacerbate the severe cholera outbreak currently affecting the nation. Tomas killed a total of 41 people.

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