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Record 117-Month Major Hurricane Drought Continues, NOAA Confirms

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Kathleen Brown , CNS News

It has been 117 months since a major hurricane, defined as a Category 3 or above, has made landfall in the continental United States, according to 2015 data from the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This is the longest span of time in which no major hurricane has struck the mainland U.S. in NOAA hurricane records going back to 1851.

The second longest time between major hurricane strikes was the eight years between 1860 and 1869—146 years ago.

A recent study published May 5 and co-authored by Tim Hall of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies entitled The Frequency and Duration of U.S. Hurricane Droughts also confirmed that the current “admittedly unusual” drought is “unprecedented in the historical record.”

That study found that major hurricane droughts only occur every 177 years, and calculated that there is less than a 5 percent chance (0.39%) that the current drought will end this hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30.

Hurricane Wilma, the most recent major hurricane to strike the U.S., was a Category 3 when it made landfall in North Carolina on October 24, 2005—almost 118 months ago.

Since the end of the 2005 hurricane season, the U.S. has experienced a nine-year major hurricane “drought,” which is approaching 10 years at the end of the 2015 season this November.

Last month, Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at NOAA’s National Hurricane Centertold CNSNews.com that this is “easily the record—with all the necessary caveats.”

Blake told CNSNews.com that measurements for storm categorizations have improved over time. […]

“Small differences today that we could detect, you couldn’t detect a long time ago,” Blake told CNSNews.com. “Given that we just see things a little better, we‘ve got more data and better satellite data, we can give a little better estimate than we could a generation ago.”

“But nonetheless, it is a record. It’s easily the record,” he continued.

That a 117-month pause in major hurricane activity follows the most active Atlantic hurricane season in history is “an unlikely event, so ascribing the significance of it is a challenge,” Blake told CNSNews.com.

“I like to think of it as Mother Nature giving us a little bit of a break after giving us a beating in 2004 and 2005.

That’s my best guess, but I don’t know.”

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