Reality Check: Global Tropical Cyclone Landfalls 1970-2013
There is no evidence that the number or intensity of landfalling hurricanes are on the increase.
Last year Jessica Weinkle, Ryan Maue and I published a paper in the Journal of Climate on trends in global landfalling hurricanes (the paper and data can be found here). At the global level, our paper concludes that the data is good from 1970. Our analysis went through 2010.
Weinkle, J, R Maue and R Pielke (2012), Historical Global Tropical Cyclone Landfalls. J. Clim. 25:4729-4735
With 2013 almost in the books I asked Ryan if he could provide a preliminary tabulation of the 2013 data (note that the data could be revised from these initial estimates, and 2013 is still not quite over).
At the top of this post is the dataset from 1970 first presented in our paper, updated using the same methods through 2013 (remember that there are a few weeks left in the year). In short, 2013 is an average year with 15 total landfalls (15.4 is average) of which 5 characterized as major (4.7 is the average).
Here are some updated statistics summarized from the data:
* Over 1970 to 2013 the globe averaged about 15 TC landfalls per year (Category 1-5)
* Of those 15, about 5 are intense (Category 3, 4 or 5)
* 1971 had the most global landfalls with 30, far exceeding the second place, 25 in 1996
* 1978 had the fewest with 7
* 2011 tied for second place for the fewest global landfalls with 10 (and 3 were intense, tying 1973, 1981 and 2002)
* Five years share the most intense TC landfalls with 9, most recently 2008.
* 1981 had the fewest intense TC landfalls with zero
* The US is currently in the midst of the longest streak ever recorded without an intense hurricane landfall
* The past 4 years have seen 15 major landfalling hurricanes, very much on the lower end of activity but not unprecedented — 1984-1987 had just 11. The most is 35 (2005-2008).
* The past 4 years have seen 51 total landfalling hurricanes, also on the low end — the least is 41 (1978-1981) and the most is 80 (four periods, most recently 2004-2007).
* There have been frequent four-year periods with more than 25 landfalling major hurricanes, or more than a 60% increase of what has been observed over the past 4 years.