The third most active tropical season on record ends today, November 30th. This 2011 season featured 19 tropical systems, which ties with three other seasons (1887, 1995, and 2010) for the number three spot. The most active tropical season on record is 2005. Records of tropical activity date back to 1851 for the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf basins.
Out of the 19 tropical systems, seven were hurricanes with at least 74 mph winds or stronger. Hurricane Irene was the first hurricane to make a direct U.S. landfall in three years (Hurricane Ike hit southeast Texas in 2008). Irene first made landfall in North Carolina, dashing the Outer Banks and eastern North Carolina before hugging eastern Virginia's coastline and producing widespread wind and flooding damage in the Commonwealth. Irene continued into New England, becoming the most significant tropical cyclone to affect the northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991.
The best news out of this season was that no major hurricanes made U.S. landfall, which marks our sixth straight year without any landfalling major hurricanes in the country! Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was the last one.
Not all of the tropical systems received names. Highlighted in yellow are the names used this season:
There was also one system called Tropical Depression Ten, which never made it to Tropical Storm strength (which is when it would have received a name). That is how we get up to 19 tropical cyclones this year, even though only 18 names were used from the list. Tropical Storm Sean was our last named system to occur in early November.
This above-average tropical season may result in part because of better satellite technology available than in earlier years to better investigate systems in the open waters too far away from hurricane hunter aircraft or other reliable sampling techniques. This allowed tropical meteorologists to better asses systems and categorize them.
An average tropical season in the Atlantic Basin has approximately 11 tropical systems, 6 of which become hurricanes, 2-3 of which become major hurricanes. Here's a look at an average season's progression, peaking September 10th:
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--Meteorologist Carrie Rose