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Tropical Cyclone Records

1. Which is the most intense tropical cyclone on record?

Typhoon Tip in the Northwest Pacific Ocean on 12 October 1979 had a measured central pressure of 870 mb and estimated surface sustained winds of 85 m/s (165 kt, 190 mph) (Dunnavan and Diercks 1980). Typhoon Nancy on 12 September, 1961 is listed in the best track data for the Northwest Pacific region as having estimated maximum sustained winds of 95 m/s (185 kt, 213 mph) with a central pressure of 888 mb. However, it is now recognized (Black 1992) that the maximum sustained winds estimated for typhoons during the 1940s to 1960s were too strong and that the 95 m/s (and numerous 83 to 93 m/s reports) is somewhat too high.

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma surpassed Hurricane Gilbert as the most intense tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Basin with 882 mb.

While the central pressures for the Northwest Pacific typhoons are the lowest globally, the North Atlantic hurricanes have provided sustained wind speeds possibly comparable to the Northwest Pacific. From the best track database, both Hurricane Camille (1969) and Hurricane Allen (1980) have winds that are estimated to be 85 m/s (165 kt, 190 mph). Measurements of such winds are inherently going to be suspect as instruments often are completely destroyed or damaged at these speeds.

2. Which tropical cyclone intensified the fastest?

Typhoon Forrest in September 1983 in the Northwest Pacific Ocean deepened by 100 mb (976 to 876 mb) in just under 24 hr (Roger Edson, personal communication). Estimated surface sustained winds increased a maximum of 15 m/s (30 kt, 35 mph) in 6 hr and 44 m/s (85 kt, 98 mph) in one day (from 33 to 77 m/s [65 to 150 kt, 75 to 173 mph]).

In the Atlantic, Hurricane Wilma went from 954 mb to 901 mb over a 4 1/2 hour period, a rate of 9.9 mb per hour.The largest 6, 12 and 24 hour pressure drops recorded in the Atlantic are associated with Hurricane Wilma as well.See the NHC archives for details.

Hurricane Gilbert went from 960 mb to 888 mb in a 24 hour period for a 3 mb/hr pressure drop. The winds went from 57 to 82 m/s (110 kt to 160 kt, 127 mph to 184 mph) in that 24 hour period. And Hurricane Beulah in 1967 underwent a 6.33 mb/hr drop over a six hour period.

3. Which tropical cyclone has produced the highest storm surge?

The Bathurst Bay Hurricane, also known as Tropical Cyclone Mahina, struck Bathurst Bay, Australia in 1899. According to (Whittingham 1958) it produced a 13 m (about 42 ft) surge, but other contemporary accounts place the surge at 14.6 m (almost 48 ft). Fish and dolphins were reportedly found on top of 15 m cliffs.

A graphical representation of a 42 foot storm surge, compared to a 6 foot person

4. What are the largest rainfalls associated with tropical cyclones?

Time Period Amount Location Storm Date
12 hr 1144 mm (45.0") Foc-Foc, La Reunion Island Tropical Cyclone Denise 7-8 January, 1966
24 hr 1825 mm (71.8") Foc-Foc, La Reunion Island Tropical Cyclone Denise 7-8 January, 1966
48 hr 2467 mm (97.1") Aurere, La Reunion Island Tropical Cyclone 8-10 April, 1958
72 hr 3240 mm (127.6") Grand-Ilet, La Reunion Island Tropical Cyclone Hyacinthe 24-27 January, 1980
10 day 5678 mm (223.5") Commerson, La Reunion Island Tropical Cyclone Hyacinthe 18-27 January, 1980

(Holland 1993)

5. Which are the largest and smallest tropical cyclones on record?

Typhoon Tip had gale force winds (17 m/s [34 kt, 39 mph]) which extended out for 1100 km [675 mi]in radius in the Northwest Pacific on 12 October, 1979 (Dunnavan and Diercks 1980). Tropical Cyclone Tracy had gale force winds that only extended 50 km [30 mi] radius when it struck Darwin, Australia, on 24 December, 1974 (Bureau of Meteorology 1977).

Graphical comparison of Typhoon Tip and Tropical Cyclone Tracy

6. Which tropical cyclone lasted the longest?

Hurricane/Typhoon John lasted 31 days as it traveled both the Northeast and Northwest Pacific basins during August and September 1994. (It formed in the Northeast Pacific, reached hurricane force there, moved across the dateline and was renamed Typhoon John, and then finally recurved back across the dateline and renamed Hurricane John again.) Hurricane Ginger was a tropical cyclone for 28 days in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1971.

It should be noted that prior to the weather satellite era (1961) many tropical cyclone life cycles could be underestimated.

Longest lasting Atlantic Hurricanes
1 27.25 GINGER 1971
2 24.75 INGA 1969
3 22 KYLE 2002
4 20.75 CARRIE 1957
STORM 9 OF 1893
6 20.25 INEZ 1966
7 19.75 ALBERTO 2000
8 19.50 STORM 4 OF 1926
9 18.50 STORM 6 OF 1893
10 18.00 STORM 2 OF 1930
11 17.75 STORM 2 OF 1899
12 17.50 BEULAH 1967
STORM 3 OF 1906

(From James Franklin and Eric Blake, NHC)

Longest lasting Central Pacific Hurricanes
1 12.5 FICO 1978
2 11.5 ULEKI 1988
3 11.25 KATE 1976
4 10.75 KEONI 1993

7. What is the farthest a tropical cyclone has traveled?

8. What hurricanes have been at Category Five status the longest?

Here are lists of the longest lived Category 5 storms for three basins since the start of the reconnaissance era (1944). These times are based on the six hourly advisories issued by NHC or JTWC.

Storm and Year Days as Category 5
ALLEN (1980) 3.00 days
DOG (1950) 2.50 days
ISABEL (2003) 1.75 days
DAVID (1979) 1.75 days
MITCH (1998) 1.75 days
East Pacific
Storm and Year Days as Category 5
PAKA (1997) 2.50 days
JOHN (1994) 1.75 days
OLIWA (1997) 1.75 days
LINDA (1997) 1.75 days
GUILLERMO (1997) 1.00 days
AVA (1973) 1.00 days
Central Pacific
Storm and Year Days as Category 5
EMILIA (1994) 0.75 days
GILMA (1994) 0.50 days
JOHN (1994) 1.75 days
West Pacific
Storm and Year Days as Category 5
NANCY (1961) 5.50 days
KAREN (1962) 4.25 days
SALLY (1954) 4.00 days
DINAH (1959) 3.75 days
NINA (1953) 3.50 days

9. Which tropical cyclones have caused the most deaths and most damage?

"The death toll in the infamous Bangladesh Cyclone of 1970 has had several estimates, some wildly speculative, but it seems certain that at least 300,000 people died from the associated storm tide [surge] in the low-lying deltas." (Holland 1993)

The most damage caused by a tropical cyclone as estimated by monetary amounts has been Hurricane Andrew (1992) as it struck the Bahamas, Florida and Louisiana, USA: US $26.5 Billion. If one normalizes hurricane damage by inflation, wealth changes and coastal county population increases, then the worst is no longer Hurricane Andrew, but is instead the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane. If this storm hit in the mid-1990s, it is estimated that it would cause over $70 BILLION in South Florida and an additional $10 BILLION in the Florida panhandle and Alabama (Pielke and Landsea 1998).

When the numbers are finalized for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it will likely be the single most costly weather related disaster in US history.

10. How many tropical cyclones have there been each year? What years were the greatest and fewest seen?

Atlantic Basin

Central Pacific Basin - The average number of tropical cyclones (depressions, storms, and hurricanes) is 3 to 4.The most active years on record were 1992 and 1994 with 11 systems each. The least active, with 0 systems, were 1977, 1969, 1964, and 1960. 1992 had 4 tropical depressions, 5 tropical storms, and 2 hurricanes.1994 had 3 tropical depressions, 3 tropical storms, and 5 hurricanes.

11. For the USA, what are the 30 highest death toll hurricanes on record?

12. What have been the costliest tropical cyclones in the United States?

This table lists the 30 costliest tropical cyclones to strike the U.S. mainland 1900-2004 (Blake et al. 2005). No monetary estimates are available before 1900 and figures are not adjusted for inflation. The 2004 hurricane season had the second, third, fourth and sixth most-costly systems to strike the United States. The second table reorders the first list and adds several other hurricanes after adjusting to 2004 dollars. Hawaiian, Puerto Rican and Virgin Island tropical cyclones are listed as addenda to these tables. The third table also lists the thirty costliest hurricanes 1900-2004 assuming that a hurricane having the same track, size and intensity as noted in the historical record would strike the area with today's population totals and property-at-risk (Pielke and Landsea 1998).

Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma during the 2005 season will most likely surpass all previous years in terms of damages.

13. What have been the most intense hurricanes to strike the United States?

The most intense mainland United States hurricanes - National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Most intense Hurricanes outside the mainland US
(at landfall)
Millibars Inches
4 DAVID (S of PR) 1979 4 924 27.29
8 San Felipe (PR) 1928 5 931 27.49
16 HUGO (USVI & PR) 1989 4 940 27.76
41 INIKI (KAUAI, HI) 1992 4 945 27.91
60 DOT (KAUAI, HI) 1959 UNK 955 28.11

14. What tropical storms and hurricanes have moved from the Atlantic to the Northeast Pacific or vice versa?

Here is a list of tropical cyclones that have crossed from the Atlantic basin to the Northeast Pacific and vice versa. The tropical cyclone must have been of at least tropical storm strength in both basins (i.e. sustained winds of at least 34 kt, or 18 m/s). This record only goes back to 1949. Before the advent of geostationary satellite pictures in the mid-1960s, the number of Northeast Pacific tropical cyclones was undercounted by a factor of 2 or 3. Thus the lack of many of these events during the 1960s and earlier is mainly due to missing the Northeast Pacific tropical cyclones.

There has not been a recorded case where the same tropical cyclone crossed into the Northeast Pacific then crossed back into the Atlantic.

  • Atlantic Hurricane Cesar (July 1996) became Northeast Pacific Hurricane Douglas
  • Atlantic Tropical Storm Bret (August 1993) became Hurricane Greg in the Northeast Pacific
  • Northeast Pacific Hurricane Cosme became Atlantic Tropical Storm Allison (June 1989)
  • Atlantic Hurricane Joan (October 1988) became Northeast Pacific Hurricane Miriam
  • Atlantic Hurricane Greta (September 1978) became Northeast Pacific Hurricane Olivia
  • Atlantic Hurricane Fifi (September 1974) became Northeast Pacific Tropical Storm Orlene
  • Atlantic Hurricane Irene (September 1971) became Northeast Pacific Tropical Storm Olivia
  • A Northeast Pacific Tropical Storm (September-October 1949) became an Atlantic Hurricane (Storm #10) and made landfall in TX.

15. When did the earliest and latest hurricanes occur?

The hurricane season is defined as June 1 through November 30. An early hurricane can be defined as occurring in the three months prior to the start of the season, and a late hurricane can be defined as occurring in the three months after the season. With these criteria the earliest observed hurricane in the Atlantic was on March 7, 1908, while the latest observed hurricane was on December 31, 1954, the second 'Alice' of that year which persisted as a hurricane until January 5, 1955. The earliest hurricane to strike the United States was Alma which struck northwest Florida on June 9, 1966. The latest hurricane to strike the U. S. was late on November 30, 1925 near Tampa, Florida. (Contribution from Blake et al. 2005.)

16. How many hurricanes have there been in each month?

Tropical Cyclone Systems in the Central Pacific Basin by Month
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 1 1 1 0 1 39 67 36 19 4 1

Bar graph of tropical cyclones per month in the Central Pacific basin from 1971 to 2005

Tropical Cyclones in the Atlantic Basin by month.

17. What was the largest number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean at the same time?

Four hurricanes occurred simultaneously on two occasions. The first occasion was August 22, 1893, and one of these eventually killed 1,000- 2,000 people in Georgia South Carolina. The second occurrence was September 25, 1998, when Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl persisted into September 27, 1998 as hurricanes. Georges ended up taking the lives of thousands in Haiti. In 1971 from September 10 to 12, there were five tropical cyclones at the same time; however, while most of these ultimately achieved hurricane intensity, there were never more than two hurricanes at any one time (from Blake et al. 2005.)

18. What was the largest number of tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific at the same time?

August 27 and 28, 2002, 3 cyclones, TD remnants of Alika, developing Tropical Storm Ele, and dissipating Tropical Storm Fausto.

August 28, 1978, Tropical Storm John, TD remnants of Kristy, and Tropical Storm Mariam.

19. When are the major hurricanes likely to strike different states?

20. What is the total United States damage (before and after adjustment for inflation) and death toll for each year since 1900?

21. What tracks did the continental U.S. major hurricanes take by decade?

22. What is the complete list of continental U.S. landfalling hurricanes?