Weather Blog: 2018 Hurricane Season Recap

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(WRDW/WAGT) -- The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season is over, so it's time for a recap. We saw a total of 15 named storms, 8 of those being hurricanes, and 2 storms reaching MAJOR hurricane strength.

The heavy hitters this year were Florence and Michael, both of which moved through the CSRA at some point in their journey. Florence caused catastrophic flooding through the Carolinas and Michael forever changed the landscape of the Florida Panhandle and south Georgia.

Florence (September 2018)

- 32 storm related deaths
- 35.93" of rain recorded in Swansboro, NC ( New North Carolina record - most rainfall from a tropical system)
- 34" of rain recorded in Marion, SC (New South Carolina record - most rainfall from a tropical system)
- Around $17.9 billion in damage so far

Michael (October 2018)

- 43 storm related deaths
- Strongest storm in recorded history to ever hit Florida Panhandle (Max Winds 155mph)
- 4th strongest storm to hit US on record (based on central pressure at landfall)
- Around $15 billion in damage so far

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) works alongside multiple government agencies to help keep the public safe and informed during extreme weather events. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) helped monitor rivers and streams in the Carolinas during Florence by deploying extra river gauges, the US Navy sent ocean gliders to take temperature and salinity profiles around tropical systems, and NOAA's Hurricane Hunter aircraft logged more than 580 hours of flight time this season. Data gathered during these missions goes directly into initializing forecast models, which leads to more accurate forecasts.

NOAA worked alongside the United States Navy to launch the most unmanned ocean gliders ever used during hurricane season. The gliders take profiles of the ocean, recording temperature and salinity. Variations in temperature and salinity in the ocean greatly influences the intensification or weakening of a tropical cyclone. Over 40,000 profiles were taken during the season thanks to the unmanned gliders.

This was also the 4th year in a row that tropical activity started before the official start of hurricane season (June 1st). Tropical Storm Alberto formed May 25th and made landfall along the gulf coast of Florida as a sub-topical storm on May 28th. Alberto made it all the way to the Great Lakes as a tropical depression.

Seven storms were classified as sub-tropical during the season; Alberto, Beryl, Debby, Ernesto, Joyce, Leslie, and Oscar. This is a new record for the most sub-tropical storms during a season. The previous record was five, set back in 1969. Sub-tropical means a storm has some tropical characteristics and some non-tropical characteristics. This usually happens when a tropical system moves into an environment influenced by the jet stream. The fast upper level winds of the jet stream change the structure of the tropical system and give it non-tropical characteristics.

The pre-season 2018 forecast (issued back in May) did a good job at predicting the number of named storms and major hurricanes. The updated forecast issued in August did not do as well. Link: https://www.wrdw.com/content/news/NOAA-updates-hurricane-forecast---below-normal-season-likely-490465521.html
The updated forecast called for 9-13 named storms (15 actual), 4-7 hurricanes (8 actual), 0-2 major hurricanes (3 actual).​ In August, scientists were confident that an El Niño was forming, which usually means a less active end to the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño did not form and the season stayed active through the peak. Other contributing factors were warm oceans and a strong west African monsoon. ​