Are Hurricanes getting worse?

Key West, Florida, Hurricane Dennis

Since the year 2000, it seems that tropical storms and hurricanes are occurring more frequently, and with more intensity. Are hurricane seasons getting progressively worse? There are lots of differing opinions within the scientific community. To form your own opinion, it is helpful to review the number and types of storms we’ve experienced in this decade.

The first year of the new millennium saw a total of 4 tropical depressions, 7 tropical storms, and 8 hurricanes. The most critical storm of the 2000 season was Hurricane Keith, which caused numerous fatalities and was blamed for large amounts of damage in Belize, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

The 2001 season was an unusual year, with no storms actually making landfall in the United States. Hurricane Iris caused major damage in Belize as it made landfall there as a Category 4 storm. Hurricane Michelle was also a severe storm, causing numerous deaths and significant squirrel control company damage in Jamaica, Cuba, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

During the first 21 days of September 2002, there were 8 recently formed storms, which made that month per record.

The 2003 Atlantic hurricane season was another record-breaker. Traditionally, the hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. However, in 2003, Storm Ana formed on April 20th, which launched the season early for the first time in fifty years. During 2003, there were 21 tropical cyclones, 16 of which formed to named storms and 7 of which reached hurricane status. Isabel caused $3.6 billion in damage and was blamed for 51 deaths in the Mid Atlantic region of the USA.

The 2004 hurricane season was another elongated calendar year, with the season extended into December. Hurricane Otto was responsible for this extension, with the storm lasting two days to the month of December. 2004 was also noted among the most costly and deadly years on record, with 3,132 deaths and roughly $50 billion U.S. dollars in damage brought on by hurricanes and tropical storms.

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was noted as “most active,” with 5 storms making U.S. landfall: Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. The most catastrophic effects of the season were felt in New Orleans and neighboring regions of the Louisiana shore when a 30-foot storm surge from Hurricane Katrina caused widespread flooding and deaths.

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season was a not as active season than 2005. Like 2001, it was an unusual year because no hurricanes really made U.S. landfall.

In 2007, the season was off to an early start with the formation of subtropical storm Andrea on May 9, 2007. The season also conducted late this year, with tropical storm Olga developing on December 11, after the season was officially over. Overall damage was estimated at $7.5 billion U.S. dollars, and the death toll was recorded in 416. Also notable is the fact that 2007 was one of four years that had more than one Category 5 storm. 2007 was also the second season on record where more than 1 storm created U.S. landfall on the same day (Felix and Henrietta).

Are hurricanes and other tropical storms becoming worse? Much of the U.S. public might believe so, especially with the shock of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which made headlines for several months after the storm. In reality, to this day, New Orleans has still not fully recovered from this storm. As to whether or not tropical storms are in fact becoming more frequent and more severe, we are not really sure yet. One thing we do know is that record-keeping is far more accurate today than it was some fifty years back. Only time will tell what the pattern of hurricanes can do in coming years. In the meantime, we can learn from the past by preparing ourselves for the future.

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