Contact: Chris Vaccaro
NOAA News Releases 2005
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Active Hurricane Era Likely To Continue

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season is the busiest on record and extends the active hurricane cycle that began in 1995 — a trend likely to continue for years to come. The season included 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes in which seven were major (Category 3 or higher).

“This hurricane season shattered records that have stood for decades -- most named storms, most hurricanes, and most category five storms. Arguably, it was the most devastating hurricane season the country has experienced in modern times,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I’d like to foretell that next year will be calmer, but I can’t. Historical trends say the atmosphere patterns and water temperatures are likely to force another active season upon us.”

The Atlantic Basin is in the active phase of a multi-decadal cycle in which optimal conditions in the ocean and atmosphere, including warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures and low wind shear, enhance hurricane activity. This increase in the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes can span multiple decades (approximately 20 to 30 years). NOAA will make its official 2006 season forecast in May, prior to the June 1st start to the season.

“Evidence of this active cycle was demonstrated this year as the Atlantic Basin produced the equivalent of more than two entire hurricane seasons over the course of one. Because we are in an active hurricane era, it’s important to recognize that with a greater number of hurricanes comes increasing odds of one striking land,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

Records set this season include the totals for:

  • Named storms: 26; previous record: 21 in 1933
  • Hurricanes: 13; previous record: 12 in 1969
  • Major hurricanes hitting the U.S.: Four (Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma); previous record: Three, most recently in 2004
  • Hurricanes of Category 5 intensity (greater than 155 mph): Three (Katrina, Rita and Wilma); previous record: Two in 1960 and 1961

NOAA scientists predicted this would be an extremely active hurricane season, forecasting near-record activity in early August. The 26 named storms topped the forecast range of 18 to 21, the 13 hurricanes inched above the forecast of nine to 11 and the seven major hurricanes fell within NOAA’s forecast range of five to seven. Five hurricanes (Dennis, Katrina, Ophelia, Rita and Wilma) and three tropical storms (Arlene, Cindy and Tammy) directly impacted the U.S.

Letters of the Greek alphabet were used to name storms for the first time since storms began acquiring names in 1953, as Hurricane Wilma exhausted the original list of 21 names. Tropical Storm Alpha and Hurricane Beta hit the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, respectively. Tropical Storm Gamma brought deadly flooding to parts of Central America. Tropical Storm Delta largely stayed over open water then moved across the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa.

With six months until the official start of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA urges hurricane-prone residents to take proactive measures during this time. “The battle against the hurricane season is won during the off season. Winter and spring is the time to conduct hurricane preparations, such as stocking supplies, assembling a safety kit that includes a NOAA Weather Radio and preparing an evacuation plan,” said Max Mayfield, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

“Amid this period of more numerous and more intense hurricanes, NOAA is focused on our mission of serving society’s needs for weather information and support the nation’s commerce,” said Lautenbacher. “NOAA is there to provide accurate storm forecasts and also stays engaged after the storm to ensure safe commercial fishing and continued navigation of our nation’s impacted waterways.”

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with our federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global Earth observation network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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