(WAFB) - November 30 marks the final day of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the season matched their predictions and was "extremely active."
There were 17 named storms this season, ten of which became hurricanes, and six of which became major hurricanes (category 3 and up). The season also included the first two major hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years.
"Throughout this devastating hurricane season, NOAA provided vital forecasts and data that helped save many lives. I commend the scientists and forecasters who worked long hours tracking every storm and guided federal and local officials' efforts to prepare and respond," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
NOAA says based on the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index, which measures the combined intensity and duration of storms and is used to classify the strength of the season as a whole, 2017 was the 7th most active season on record, dating back to 1851. It was also the most active season since 2005.
NOAA also says the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued forecasts with record-setting accuracy. For the three most damaging hurricanes of the season, their forecasts were about 25 percent more accurate than average.
The three major hurricanes that made landfall were Harvey in Texas, Irma in the Caribbean and southeastern U.S., and Maria in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. Harvey was the first major storm to hit the U.S. since Wilma hit Florida in October of 2005. Four other storms also hit the U.S. They were Cindy in Texas, Emily and Phillipe in Florida, and Nate in Mississippi.
"This was a hurricane season that wouldn't quit. The season started early with a storm in April and the peak of the season featured an onslaught of ten successive hurricanes. NOAA forecasters rose to this challenge to keep emergency officials and the public aware of anticipated hazards," said Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet.
The 2018 hurricane season will begin on June 1. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center will release its initial outlook for the season in May.
"In six short months, the next hurricane season will be upon us. This is a good time to review and strengthen your preparedness plans at home as we continue to build a Weather-Ready Nation," said Gallaudet.
Key NOAA activities for the season are as follows:
- NOAA aircraft flew more than 500 hours to support forecasting, research and emergency response. Scientists with NOAA Research flew on the aircraft to gather the data used to generate accurate forecasts of the storms’ paths and catastrophic rainfall forecasts. Meanwhile, unmanned aircraft and underwater drones probed Hurricane Maria’s eyewall, soared at 60,000 feet over Hurricane Harvey and dove through the storm-churned waters of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean to gather unique insights on the storms. Experimental NOAA forecast models run during the storms continue to push the frontiers of weather forecasting skill in storm track, intensity and rainfall amounts. Researchers are now assessing how this data may improve hurricane prediction in the future.
- Forecasters accessed pre-operational imagery from its new geostationary satellite, GOES-16, to track storms with greater detail than ever before. GOES-16 will become operational next month and will be renamed GOES-East. NOAA launched its newest polar-orbiting satellite, JPSS-1, earlier this month and will launch GOES-S next spring. Together, these satellites will provide a significant boost to hurricane monitoring for the 2018 season.
- NOAA's National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, supported local officials in Texas during Hurricane Harvey by providing specialized and supplemental "worst case" river flooding maps for a region that would experience days of excessive rainfall. This tailored decision, coupled with accurate and consistent warnings of historic rainfall and catastrophic flooding from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, allowed Texas emergency managers to stage resources, recovery encampments, evacuation areas, and other relief activities safely outside the areas of likely flooding.
- NOAA’s National Ocean Service provided crucial information and expertise before, during and after all of the storms. Leading up to and throughout the storms, NOS issued Storm QuickLooks which provide near real-time coastal and weather data. Once the storms passed, NOS collected more than 65,000 post-storm aerial images in priority areas to assess damage to coastal areas, covering more than 9,200 square miles. NOS also provided emergency hydrographic services at affected port areas. This data was used to detect potential hazards that could delay the delivery of emergency supplies and maritime commerce and help the U.S. Coast Guard to make decisions on reopening ports.
- NOAA’s NWS and National Hurricane Center successfully launched new Storm Surge Watches and Warnings in 2017 for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. Despite a record three landfalling Category 4 hurricanes, there are currently no known deaths from storm surge in the United States. NHC also issued new Potential Tropical Cyclone advisories on seven systems in the Atlantic basin that allowed the timely issuance of watches and warnings for land areas. All but one of these systems went on to develop into a tropical storm or hurricane.
In addition, the Hurricane Hunters, officially known as the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, flew for more than 800 hours in more than 90 missions into 12 named storms this season. To read more about their efforts, click here.