October has not always been thought of as an active month for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic. Many think that the prime portion of every hurricane season happens during the months of August and September.
Climatologically speaking that is true since about 60 percent of all hurricanes occur during this period. However, during the past seven or eight years, activity has also picked up during the months of October and November. Could this be a start of a trend? Well, we'll have to see over a period of the next 20 or 30 years.
Usually, the end of September brings the end of the Cape Verde Season in the Tropical Atlantic. The Cape Verde Season is the segment of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, where some of the most powerful storms of a particular season develop in the far Eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa.
Well, up to the statistical high point of the 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which was September 10th, there had only been seven named storms, and three of them only became hurricanes: Erin, Felix, and Gabrielle. However, over the course of the next several weeks, things began to take on a whole different look from an activity standpoint.
First, we had Hurricane Humberto, which had developed near the Bahamas and Bermuda, and became a Category Two Hurricane as it came within a few hundred miles of the Southeast coast before it was turned out to sea. As it went into the depths of the North Atlantic's cooler waters, it weakened as it should have.
However, a few hundred miles to the Southeast of Nova Scotia, Humberto, which had dropped to only a tropical storm with 65 mph winds, rapidly intensified into a strong Category Two Hurricane with winds of 105 mph..
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Humberto would weaken again, but it would be a sign of things to come. On October 4th, 2001, a tropical disturbance began taking shape in the Western Atlantic. It had been a fairly impressive wave in the Eastern and Central Atlantic, but upper level winds were quite hostile toward development.
However, as it moved into the Western Atlantic, some 300 miles or so from the Lesser Antilles, this disturbance took shape and became the ninth named storm of the 2001 Atlantic Season, Iris. Iris endured quite a bit of struggle as it moved through the islands and got south of the island of Hispanola and Cuba. The outflow of the storm got caught up with the rugged mountains in both of these islands, and slacked off a bit.
However, once it got south of Jamaica, Iris intensified rapidly in the very warm waters of the Western Caribbean, and went from a Category One Hurricane to a strong Category Four Hurricane with 145 mph winds before making landfall in Belize on October 8th, 2001.
On top of that, we had Tropical Storm Jerry, which formed a couple days after Iris developed in the Western Atlantic, and brought 50 mph winds to parts of the Windward Islands on Sunday night, October 7th, 2001 before dissipating in the afternoon on Monday, October 8th, 2001.
There were also a couple strong disturbances in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Central Atlantic on Sunday, October 7th, 2001, but only the disturbance in the Central Atlantic is getting any sort of attention right now.
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What we're seeing here is a slow rise in activity over the past seven years in the month of October. We have seen such powerful storms like Opal (1995), Roxanne (1995), Mitch (1998), Lenny (1999), Keith and Michael (2000), have developed in various portions of the Tropical Atlantic.
On top of that, there was also the development of Hurricanes Florence and Gordon in the last month of the 1994 Hurricane Season. Is this an indication that hurricane seasons in the Atlantic are going to get longer in duration, or is this just a part of the 20 to 30 year cycle of increased hurricane activity? Perhaps, it is a combination of both.
We know that we are entering a period of increased hurricane activity, but we are also looking at new weather phenomena such as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which have had quite an impact on hurricane activity in the Atlantic the past couple seasons. We'll have to see if this trend continues for a longer period of time.
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