The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane season didn't bring many tropical storms to Gulf of Mexico (GOM) energy interests or the North American mainland, but it did produce the third-highest number of tropical storms since records began in 1851 and continued a trend of active hurricane seasons begun in 1995, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The hurricane season, which officially ends Wednesday, produced a total of 19 tropical storms, including seven hurricanes, three of them intense (Category Three or greater). In a forecast released at the beginning of August, NOAA forecasters had said they expected the Atlantic basin to produce 14-19 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, three to five of them Category 3 or greater (see Daily GPI, Aug. 5).
Hurricane Irene, which turned out the lights on millions of East Coast residents and in doing so cut demand for natural gas by about 2.8 Bcf (see Daily GPI, Aug. 30), was the only hurricane to hit the United States this year and was the first to do so since Hurricane Ike struck southeast Texas in 2008. It has been six years since a major hurricane hit the United States.
"Irene broke the 'hurricane amnesia' that can develop when so much time lapses between landfalling storms," said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "This season is a reminder that storms can hit any part of our coast and that all regions need to be prepared each and every season."
Key climate indicators, including the tropical multi-decadal signal, exceptionally warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures, the redevelopment of a La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean, reduced vertical wind shear and lower air pressure across the tropical Atlantic all favored an active season, NOAA said.
The consensus forecast this year was for an above-average hurricane season. WSI Corp. (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22), Colorado State University (see Daily GPI, June 2), AccuWeather.com (see Daily GPI, Aug. 12), MDA EarthSat (see Daily GPI, May 18) and WeatherBELL Analytics chief meteorologist Joe Bastardi (see Daily GPI, Aug. 17) all forecast above-average numbers of named storms and hurricanes.
While the number of tropical storms this year was relatively high, they presented only sporadic danger to GOM energy interests. But four oil workers died in September after they and six others were forced to abandon a liftboat in the southern GOM during Tropical Storm Nate (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19; Sept. 12). And Tropical Storm Lee forced temporary shut-ins and the evacuation of production platforms and mobile drilling rigs in the GOM (see Daily GPI, Sept. 9), as did Hurricane Don, though to a lesser extent (see Daily GPI, Aug. 2).
NOAA is scheduled to issue its initial outlook for next year's Atlantic hurricane season just prior to the official start of the season on June 1, 2012.
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