2008 Atlantic hurricane season sets records
The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season won't end officially until Sunday, but meteorologists are already taking stock of what turned out to be one of the most active seasons in the 64 years since "comprehensive" record-keeping began. That's Ike in the satellite image above, just before it struck Texas.
In all, the season produced 16 named storms, including 8 hurricanes, of which five reached "major" Category 3 status. The count was close to pre-season forecasts by NOAA and Colorado State University's hurricane experts. It was also significantly higher than the long-term average of 11, 6 and 2.
Among the superlatives being posted this week:
* Tied as the fourth most-active storm season in terms of named storms and major hurricanes.
* First time on record that six consecutive named storms struck the mainland U.S. (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike). A record three Cat. 3 storms (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) struck Cuba.
* First Atlantic season to produce a major hurricane in five consecutive months, July through November (Bertha, Gustav, Ike, Omar, Paloma).
* Bertha, in July, was a tropical cyclone for 17 days in July, the longest-lived July storm on record in the Atlantic.
*Fay, in August, became the only storm on record to make landfall in Florida four times.
* Paloma, in November, reached Cat. 4 stature with top sustained winds of 145 mph. That made it the second-strongest November hurricane on record. (The first was Lenny, in 1999, with top winds of 155 mph.)
NOAA's lead hurricane forecaster, Gerry Bell, attributed the turbulent season to several factors, including a combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that has been generating above-average seasons since 1995. Also, he points to the lingering effects of the La Nina phenomenon that ended in June, and warmer Atlantic Ocean water temperatures- about 1 degree Fahrenheit above normal during the peak of the season.