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2016 HURRICANE SEASON IN REVIEW by Dr. Keith G. Blackwell Associate Professor of Meteorology Coastal Weather Research Center Department of Earth Sciences, University of South Alabama For the first time since 2013, the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season experienced above-average activity (15 named storms, 3 above normal). A developing La Niña contributed to a more favorable tropical cyclone environment in the Atlantic, particularly late in the season, compared to an extremely hostile situation last year during a very strong El Niño. As a result, the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index increased to 136% of normal compared to only 60% of normal last year. Seven hurricanes were observed (1 above normal) compared to only 4 in 2015 and 2 in 2014. Also, the 2016 season produced 3 major hurricanes. The 2016 hurricane season was also characterized by: • An active early season with Alex and Bonnie forming before 1 June and 2 storms in June (Colin and Danielle). • An active and unusually powerful late season with hurricanes Matthew, Nicole, and Otto. • Two U.S. hurricane landfalls (Hermine and Matthew). • Hermine: First Florida hurricane since 2005 (Wilma). • Matthew: oo Latest U.S. landfall so far north since 1954 (Hazel). oo Strongest Atlantic storm so far south on record, eclipsing Ivan (2004). oo Lowest-latitude category 5 on record. oo Second category 4 storm in Bahamas in 2 years. oo First Haiti major hurricane landfall in 50 years. oo Longest-lived October category 4-5 hurricane. oo First category 5 storm since 2007 (Felix). • A record 11th consecutive year without a major hurricane striking the U.S. (prior record: 8 years). • Otto: Latest-forming hurricane in the Caribbean and latest hurricane landfall (Nicaragua) of any Atlantic Basin storm on record. • Only season with two category 4-5’s in October. The 2016 season began very early with a rare January hurricane (Alex) in the open Atlantic. Bonnie and Colin, both weak storms, brought heavy rainfall and tropical storm conditions to the Carolinas and Florida in late May/early June. Danielle and Earl were short-lived storms striking Mexico and Belize, respectively. Fiona, Ian, Karl, and Lisa were non-eventful tropical storms which remained in the open Atlantic and characterized an abnormally weak round of mid-season storms during what is normally the climatological peak of the season. Gaston, the season’s first major hurricane, roamed the Atlantic in late August and early September, eventually threatening the Azores as a weakening tropical storm. Hermine formed along the north coast of Cuba and took a hard northeastward turn over the central Gulf, making landfall in Florida’s sparselypopulated Big Bend area near St. Marks with 80 mph winds. Insured damages were less than $400 million. Later in September, weak Tropical Storm Julia formed over northeast Florida before moving northeastward to southern South Carolina, then turning out to sea with little impact. Matthew was one of the great storms in Atlantic hurricane history and set numerous records. Forming from a tropical wave near the Windward Islands, this slow-moving storm reached category 5 intensity and made multiple landfalls in the Caribbean, Bahamas, and finally near Charleston, SC. One of the longest-lived hurricanes maintaining ≥ category 3 intensity on record, the storm killed over 800 people in Haiti before slamming Cuba and the Bahamas then raking the coastline from eastern Florida northward to North Carolina. Nearly 50 fatalities occurred in the U.S., particularly from devastating North Carolina floods. Nicole, a rare late-season category 4 hurricane, was the 3rd storm to directly strike Bermuda in the last 3 years, a record. The season ended with category 2 Hurricane Otto striking Nicaragua in late November with 110 mph winds. Otto was the only hurricane-strength storm on record to track across Costa Rica. Name Status Month Wind Pressure (mph) (millibars) Alex H-1 January 85 981 Bonnie TS May-June 45 1006 Colin TS June 50 1002 Danielle TS June 45 1007 Earl H-1 August 80 982 Fiona TS August 50 1004 Gaston MH-3 Aug-Sept 120 956 Hermine H-1 Aug-Sept 80 983 Ian TS September 60 994 Julia TS September 40 1007 Karl TS September 70 988 Lisa TS September 50 999 Matthew MH-5 Sept-Oct 160 934 Nicole MH-4 October 130 950 Otto H-1 November 110 975 TS=Tropical Storm; H=Hurricane; MH=Major Hurricane - 20 -

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