NOAA: Record 117-Month U.S. Major Hurricane Drought Continues

Posted: July 15, 2015 by oldbrew in Analysis, weather

Not a recent photo [credit: NOAA]

Not a recent photo [credit: NOAA]

We have highlighted this before, but the period just keeps getting longer, much to the relief of many U.S. citizens no doubt. reports: It has been 117 months since a major hurricane, defined as a Category 3 or above, has made landfall in the continental United States, according to 2015 data from the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This is the longest span of time in which no major hurricane has struck the mainland U.S. in NOAA hurricane records going back to 1851.

The second longest time between major hurricane strikes was the eight years between 1860 and 1869—146 years ago.

A recent study published May 5 and co-authored by Tim Hall of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies entitled The Frequency and Duration of U.S. Hurricane Droughts also confirmed that the current “admittedly unusual” drought is “unprecedented in the historical record.”

That study found that major hurricane droughts only occur every 177 years, and calculated that there is less than a 5 percent chance (0.39%) that the current drought will end this hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30.

Hurricane Wilma, the most recent major hurricane to strike the U.S., was a Category 3 when it made landfall in North Carolina on October 24, 2005—almost 118 months ago.

Since the end of the 2005 hurricane season, the U.S. has experienced a nine-year major hurricane “drought,” which is approaching 10 years at the end of the 2015 season this November.

Last month, Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, told that this is “easily the record — with all the necessary caveats.”

Blake co-authored NOAA’s The Deadliest, Costliest, And Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 report, which explains that “category assignment is based on wind speed from 1851-1930 and 1990-2010 and on a combination of wind, pressure and storm surge from 1931-1989.”

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale assigns categories from 1 to 5 based on sustained wind speeds and potential for damage. The scale was developed in 1969, so storms before then were assigned categories retroactively, using the historical measurements on record.

Blake told that measurements for storm categorizations have improved over time.

While a Category 3 or greater storm has not struck the U.S. since Wilma in 2005, several hurricanes of lesser wind speeds have still caused considerable damage, including Ike in 2008 (Category 2), Irene in 2011 (Category 1), and Sandy in 2012 (Category 1).

According to NOAA, Category 1 storms cause “some damage” with sustained winds between 74-95 mph, and Category 2 storms cause “extensive damage” with winds between 96 and 110 mph.

Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes are considered “major” because of their ability to produce “devastating” and “catastrophic damage” with wind speeds of 111-129 mph, 130-156 mph, and 157 mph or higher, respectively.

“Small differences today that we could detect, you couldn’t detect a long time ago,” Blake told “Given that we just see things a little better, we‘ve got more data and better satellite data, we can give a little better estimate than we could a generation ago.”

“But nonetheless, it is a record. It’s easily the record,” he continued.

That a 117-month pause in major hurricane activity follows the most active Atlantic hurricane season in history is “an unlikely event, so ascribing the significance of it is a challenge,” Blake told

“I like to think of it as Mother Nature giving us a little bit of a break after giving us a beating in 2004 and 2005.

That’s my best guess, but I don’t know.”

Report with graphic here: NOAA: Record 117-Month Major Hurricane Drought Continues.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Those who talked up the threat of hurricanes getting worse in one way or another, largely due to man’s activities in their opinion, were obviously just trying to grab a few headlines with zero predictive skill.

    Not expecting their apologies for stirring up unnecessary fears any time soon :/

  2. Didn’t Hayhoe and other AWGers say CO2 would cause US droughts?
    They’re such amazing scientists.

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    After the missing heat comes the missing hurricanes. These AGW people are so careless.

  4. tchannon says:

    177 years?

    That matches th e widely mentioned 17x year return period attributed by some to solar system activity.

  5. Bill H says:

    Yet in the Pacific hurricane activity has been at a record high:

    The focus of this blog on hurricanes reaching the shores of the USA might lead a cynic to suspect cherry-picking, Maybe, rather than spending their time sneering at the “carelessness” of “AGW people” Roger’s army needs to be applying more “care” themselves in their consideration of hurricane activity across the globe. After all what does the “G” in “AGW” stand for?

    [reply] Gone is in All Gone Wrong

  6. ren says:

    The temperature and the jet stream at an altitude of 3500 m. There is no chance of a hurricane.,36.90,670
    The temperature of the sea surface. From my observation is that less than 28 degrees C is little chance of a hurricane.,36.90,670

  7. ren says:

    Still the lack of hurricanes shows clearly jetstream at an altitude of 10,000 meters.,36.90,670

  8. donfjr09 says:

    Thank you Ren. The three graphics you have linked to are the most fascinating things I have seen in ages. I could look at them all day long…………..

  9. oldbrew says:

    TC: ‘177 years? That matches the widely mentioned 17x year return period attributed by some to solar system activity.’

    Yes, scope for investigation there IMO. It’s about the average length of sixteen solar cycles.

  10. ren says:

    Jet stream 250 hPa depends on the pressure and temperature in the lower stratosphere.

  11. ren says:


  12. oldbrew says:

    Can Bill H tell us how human activity makes Pacific cyclones above average (this year) and Atlantic hurricanes well below average (last ten years)?

  13. oldbrew says:

  14. choey2 says:

    The hurricanes are still there. They’re just hiding in the deep ocean next to the missing heat.

  15. oldbrew says:

    Al Gore’s category 6 level blunder…

    Recent U.S. hurricane history:


  16. Bill H says:

    can Oldbrew tell us why he is now deftly moving off the subject of hurricanes affecting the US, for which he has provided some evidence, on to the subject of Atlantic hurricanes and Pacific hurricanes in general for which he continues to provide no evidence for his assertions. Will he agree that by saying that pacific hurricane activity this year is merely “above average” he is belittling the reality of record activity this year on the basis, so far, of no evidence.

    [reply] you were the one who changed the subject Bill

  17. tom0mason says:

    Hurricane bus-stop theory —

    Hurricanes are like waiting for a bus; none turn-up for ages then four or five turn-up out of schedule and full to the brim.

    [reply] like July-Oct 2005 in the graphic above