Now that the hurricane season has ended, research is coming in with regard to the data on hurricanes. At this point in time, we have an understanding of the 2021 hurricane season. And its similarities to the previous season.
While the 2020 hurricane season broke records in various regards, 2021 broke records in different manners.
The largest similarity between the two of them was the number of named storms that each season had. However, 2021 has been the third in history that used up all of the names on the seasonal list. The previous years were 2020 and 2005.
This season ended with 21 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes (Major being category 3 or higher). On an average year, we'd typically experience 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.
All in all, this season met or in some cases exceeded those categories and it was even forecasted to be like that.
Hurricane & Storm Details
This season there were four major hurricanes: Grace, Ida, Larry, and Sam. The strongest ones were Ida and Sam as they reached Category 4 strength while Grace and Larry peaked at Category 3.
The start of the season had the US impacted by eight named storms: Claudette, Danny, Elsa, Fred, Henri, Ida, Mindy, and Nicholas.
After those storms left, the oceans where hurricanes developed became eerily quiet. It was so quiet that after September 25th, the Atlantic and the rest of the world struggled to come up with a named storm.
It was unusual and not what meteorologists were expecting.
Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University said in a tweet:
"The globe has had no major (Category 3+, max winds >=111 mph) hurricane/typhoon/cyclone formations since September 25. All other hurricane seasons in the satellite era (since 1966) have had at least two global major hurricane formations between September 26 - November 19,"
Another thing to note about all this is that last year and this year La Niña conditions were sticking around for the last several weeks of the season. That is unusual as these conditions typically favor late-season tropical activity.
Last year, there were three named storms that hit in November - Eta, Theta, and Iota - and this year there was only one - Wanda - that was experienced in the first few days.
The biggest differences though weren't so much what was experienced at the beginning or middle but rather at the end.
What Happened At The End
Klotzbach explained that La Niña does one of two things:
- Weakens the vertical wind shear
- Or limits it.
What's weird is that the wind shear in the Caribbean in October and November were quite high. That phenomenon was what caused a quiet latter part of the hurricane season this year.
Even though it was predicted a while ago that the season would be an active one, no one knows ahead of time where each storm is going to go, what damage it'll do, and when it's going to be formed.
That sort of stuff is impossible to know in advance.
But that doesn't make this a "bad" season. It's all about perspective. For example, Central American countries might consider this year was a "good" year as not even a single named storm hit the region at all. All the while, Central America got hit with three named storms last year with two of them being major hurricanes.
In the case of the US, Louisiana was hit harder. Last year, five named storms hit the area: Cristobal, Laura, Marco, Delta and Zeta. This year there were only three: Claudette, Ida and Nicholas.
Overall, 2020 hurricanes caused a lot of landfall in the US, but the costs of this season were way more.
Billions Of Dollars In Damages
Yes, the US had a relatively good hurricane season this year compared to last in some areas. This is on top of the fact that Ida was the only one that made landfall over the US. However, the four named storms that hit the US this year left behind over $1 billion in damages per storm.
It's why meteorologists were saying that Tropical Storm Elsa, Tropical Storm Fred, Hurricane Ida, and Hurricane Nicholas combined cost $20 billion dollars more than last year.
It makes sense when you consider that damages from Ida alone exceeded the damage of the previous season's total damages. Last year Laura, Delta, and Zeta each cost seven billion dollars each.
And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
"To date, Hurricane Ida is the costliest disaster this year -- exceeding $60 billion. Ida already ranks among the top five most costly hurricanes on record for the US since 1980."
Ida was the strongest Atlantic hurricane this year with sustained winds of 150 mph when it hit Port Fourchon, Louisiana, on August 29th. It was one of the only three to hit the state with the most recent one before that being Laura in 2020.
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