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Start of Atlantic hurricane season has been busy

How's the start of the Atlantic hurricane season compared to past years? The Weather Channel looks at the stats.
/ Source: The Weather Channel

Has the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season been "active?" On one hand, we've had five named storms already. In an "average" season, we've typically only had two named storms by the first of August.

However, the first four storms were short-lived, none attaining hurricane status, with little to no impact to land areas. This is on-par with the season's first hurricane typically occurring by the second week of August.

Dating back to 1950, August has had:

  • Three times as many named storms,
  • Almost four times as many hurricanes,
  • Eight times as many major hurricanes ()

as July. In fact, 78% of named storms in the Atlantic Basin have taken place from August through October.

Not that June or July named storms or hurricanes "don't count," but August through October is the heart of the hurricane season.

TWC Hurricane Expert, ( | ) says this is due to an environment of decreased vertical wind shear and increased sea-surface temperatures in what's known as the "main development region" of the tropical Atlantic, between the west coast of Africa and the Caribbean. Into this more favorable environment, more well-defined emerge from Africa every 2 to 4 days.

Do you have "hurricane apathy," even as we're headed into the heart of the hurricane season?

Since the destructive and hurricane seasons, only 4 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S., all doing so in the western half of the Gulf of Mexico. Both Alex and Earl in 2010 did not make U.S. landfalls, but still produced some impacts in the U.S. (Rio Grande flooding, Outer Banks storm surge flooding).

That's no hurricane landfalls the past two seasons and three of the last five (2010, 2009, 2006). Florida hasn't had a hurricane landfall since Wilma in October 2005.

So, outside of destructive Hurricane Ike in 2008, the U.S. has been rather fortunate the past few years.

In its , Weather Services International Chief Meteorologist, Dr. Todd Crawford, laid out a stunning fact: The United States has not gone through a three-year period without a hurricane landfall since the 1860s!

Dr. Crawford also pointed out that 80 percent of all years in the historical database have had at least one hurricane landfall in the U.S.

Clearly, the odds are loaded toward a hurricane landfall in 2011.

"Ultimately the atmosphere is going to do what it wants based on the steering pattern regardless of how much time has passed since a U.S. hurricane landfall,  but the climatological odds are overwhelmingly in favor of at least one this season," says TWC Senior Meteorologist ( ).

Looking back at history, where are the most often hurricane-struck areas? South Florida and the N. Carolina Outer Banks ... two areas that have been relatively spared the past 5 years.

Which bring us to Tropical Storm Emily, which became the fifth named storm of the season just west of the Windward Islands Monday evening.

Weakening high pressure aloft should steer Emily on a west-northwest track through the Caribbean through Wednesday.

The latter half of this week will be key, as a "break" in the upper-level high pressure system over the southwest Atlantic may help draw this system toward the northwest, as either as a tropical depression, storm, or hurricane.

With that said, it is still too early to determine U.S. impact from this system.

"Nobody should ever let down their guard regardless of how long it's been," says Ostro. "Whether or not in 2011, it's just a matter of time before the next bad one hits."