6B.7 An analysis of Atlantic hurricane seasons in the Pre-HURDAT era (1751–1850)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 5:00 PM
609 (Washington State Convention Center)
Steven A. LaVoie, Ball State University, Muncie, IN; and J. S. M. Coleman

An extensive database that contains the tracks of known tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean after 1850 is currently available and is commonly known by the abbreviation HURDAT or North Atlantic Hurricane Database. While this database is an invaluable tool to public and private agencies alike, some of the deadliest hurricanes on record occurred prior to 1851. Among these was the deadliest known Atlantic hurricane, the Great Hurricane of 1780, which is the highlight of the author's companion talk. This talk will focus on the identification and quantification of tropical cyclones that existed during the 1820's, one of the decades covered in the author's study period of the “Pre-HURDAT era.” Over the past decade, there have been several tropical cyclone landfalls that have been listed as “unprecedented” meaning that no other storm exists in our current climatic record stretching back to 1851. One such example would be the landfall a tropical cyclone on the Iberian Peninsula (Hurricane Vince of the 2005 Hurricane Season) where, in reality, an even stronger tropical cyclone struck the region in 1842, a year currently not included in the climatic record despite the author finding evidence of at least nine tropical cyclones. The goal of this project is to identify every known tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic that occurred between 1751 and 1850, the “Pre-HURDAT Era.”

After an initial analysis of available data, the author has deduced that at least thirty-one tropical cyclones existed in the North Atlantic basin during the 1820's including several major hurricanes. One of the most documented cases was the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane of 1821, which had a significant impact of New York City and New England only six years after a major hurricane struck the same region. Other notable hurricanes include a very early hurricane that struck the east coast of the United States in June 1825 and a strike to the island of St. Kitts that was worse than the 1780 Great Hurricane. This talk will briefly describe how the data supporting these tracks was acquired and the difficulties of doing a full basin analysis for years prior to 1851. This will be followed by a description of notable hurricanes during the 1820's. The presentation will conclude with a brief history of New England hurricanes and a discussion of the impacts of hurricanes on the region and how the frequency of New England hurricanes has left the region particularly vulnerable to the phenomenon.

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