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MONTHLY WEATHER REVIEW

VOLUME 133

ANNUAL SUMMARY

Atlantic Hurricane Season of 2003

MILES B. LAWRENCE, LIXION A. AVILA, JOHN L. BEVEN, JAMES L. FRANKLIN, RICHARD J. PASCH, AND STACY R. STEWART

Tropical Prediction Center, National Hurricane Center, NOAA/NWS, Miami, Florida

(Manuscript received 30 April 2004, in final form 8 November 2004)

ABSTRACT

The 2003 Atlantic hurricane season is described. The season was very active, with 16 tropical storms, 7 of which became hurricanes. There were 49 deaths directly attributed to this year’s tropical cyclones.

1. Introduction

There were 16 named tropical cyclones of at least tropical storm strength in the Atlantic basin during 2003, 7 of which became hurricanes. Table 1 lists these tropical storms and hurricanes, along with their dates, maximum 1-min wind speeds, minimum central sea level pressures, deaths, and U.S. damage. Figure 1 shows the “best tracks” of this season’s storms.

The numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes dur- ing 2003 are above the long-term (1944–2003) averages of 10 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes. There have been three seasons with 16 or more named tropical cyclones in the 60 seasons since 1944, and this places the 2003 season in the upper fifth percentile of seasonal number of named tropical cyclones. Another measure of seasonal activity is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) accumu- lated cyclone energy index, which is defined as the sum of the squares of the maximum wind speed, every 6 h, for all tropical storms and hurricanes in a season. By this measure, the 2003 season ranks in the upper twelfth percentile of seasons, for all seasons since 1944.

Fabian, Isabel, and Kate were major hurricanes, cat- egory 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale (Simpson 1974). Fabian and Isabel were exceptionally long-lived and intense.

There were two U.S. hurricane landfalls. Claudette struck Texas near Matagorda Island as a category-1

Corresponding author address: Miles B. Lawrence, National Hurricane Center, 11691 S.W. 17 St., Miami, FL 33165-2149. E-mail: miles.b.lawrence@noaa.gov

hurricane, and Isabel’s category-2 landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina brought hurricane conditions to portions of North Carolina and Virginia and record flood levels to the upper Chesapeake Bay. Elsewhere, Erika made landfall on the northeastern Mexico’s Gulf Coast as a category-1 hurricane, Fabian was the most destructive hurricane to hit Bermuda in over 75 yr, and Juan was the worst hurricane to hit Halifax, Nova Scotia, in over 100 yr.

This season’s tropical cyclones took 49 lives in the Atlantic basin, including 25 in the United States. Total damage in the United States is estimated at 3.6 billion dollars, mostly from Hurricane Isabel.

One April tropical storm and two December tropical storms extended the season before and after the usual June-through-November period. Ana was the first April tropical storm on record, and the year 1887 was the only other year with two December storms.

Section 2 describes the individual cyclones that at- tained at least minimal tropical storm strength. In ad- dition, there were five tropical depressions that did not reach tropical storm strength. These are described in section 3. Section 4 gives a brief verification of National Hurricane Center (NHC) official track and intensity forecasts for this season.

The individual summaries are based on NHC post- storm analyses that result in a best track for each cy- clone, consisting of 6-h estimates of center position, maximum 1-min, 10-m wind speed, and minimum cen- tral surface pressure. A description of the various ob- servational data used to track tropical cyclones is given by Franklin et al. (2001). The life cycle of each cyclone is defined to include tropical and subtropical depres-

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