The World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee met in Martinique, France, from April 9 to 13 to review the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season and to discuss regional coordination and operational planning to protect lives and property in the forthcoming one.
The Hurricane Committee retired the names Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate from its list of rotating names. They will be replaced by Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel.
WMO maintains rotating lists of names, which are appropriate for each Tropical Cyclone basin. In the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific, male and female names alternate alphabetically and the lists are used every six years. If a hurricane is particularly deadly or costly, then its name is retired and replaced by a different name. The four new names will be used in the 2023 season.
The extremely active 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most destructive on record. Damage costs exceeded $250 billion in the United States alone, while recovery for the worst hit Caribbean islands such as Dominica may take years. Several hundred people died, and the lives of millions were impacted.
Accurate forecasts and warnings about wind, storm surge and flooding hazards and coordination between meteorological services and disaster management helped prevent the casualty toll from being even higher. Longstanding cooperation within WMO’s Regional Association for North America, Central America and the Caribbean (RAIV) meant that sophisticated forecast products and impact assessments were available to the whole region.
For the first time on record, three category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. (Harvey, Irma and Maria), and six category 5 landfalls occurred across the Caribbean basin from Irma and Maria.
Of the 17 named tropical storms that formed during 2017, ten became hurricanes, and six reached major hurricane strength (category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale), according to a report by WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) Miami, which is under the responsibility of the U.S. National Hurricane Center. In comparison, the 1981-2010 averages are 12 tropical storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, a measure that takes into account both the strength and duration of the season’s tropical storms and hurricanes, was about 241 percent of the long-term average and the seventh highest in the Atlantic historical record back to 1851, according to the RSMC Miami report.
September was also the busiest month on record, in terms of ACE, for any tropical cyclone basin worldwide since more reliable records began in the early 1970s.