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The Record-Breaking 1933 Atlantic Hurricane Season

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • 2 North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies, North Carolina State University, Asheville, North Carolina
  • 3 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, and NOAA/Physical Sciences Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
  • 4 Aon, Chicago, Illinois
  • 5 Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science, UCAR, San Diego, California
  • 6 Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 7 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

The 1933 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active, with 20 named storms and 11 hurricanes including 6 major (category 3+; 1-min maximum sustained winds ≥96 kt) hurricanes occurring. The 1933 hurricane season also generated the most accumulated cyclone energy (an integrated metric that accounts for frequency, intensity, and duration) of any Atlantic hurricane season on record. A total of 8 hurricanes tracked through the Caribbean in 1933—the most on record. In addition, two category 3 hurricanes made landfall in the United States just 23 h apart: the Treasure Coast hurricane in southeast Florida followed by the Cuba–Brownsville hurricane in south Texas. This manuscript examines large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions that likely led to such an active hurricane season. Extremely weak vertical wind shear was prevalent over both the Caribbean and the tropical Atlantic throughout the peak months of the hurricane season, likely in part due to a weak-to-moderate La Niña event. These favorable dynamic conditions, combined with above-normal tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures, created a very conducive environment for hurricane formation and intensification. The Madden–Julian oscillation was relatively active during the summer and fall of 1933, providing subseasonal conditions that were quite favorable for tropical cyclogenesis during mid- to late August and late September to early October. The current early June and August statistical models used by Colorado State University would have predicted a very active 1933 hurricane season. A better understanding of these extremely active historical Atlantic hurricane seasons may aid in anticipation of future hyperactive seasons.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy.

Corresponding author: Philip J. Klotzbach, philk@atmos.colostate.edu

Abstract

The 1933 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active, with 20 named storms and 11 hurricanes including 6 major (category 3+; 1-min maximum sustained winds ≥96 kt) hurricanes occurring. The 1933 hurricane season also generated the most accumulated cyclone energy (an integrated metric that accounts for frequency, intensity, and duration) of any Atlantic hurricane season on record. A total of 8 hurricanes tracked through the Caribbean in 1933—the most on record. In addition, two category 3 hurricanes made landfall in the United States just 23 h apart: the Treasure Coast hurricane in southeast Florida followed by the Cuba–Brownsville hurricane in south Texas. This manuscript examines large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions that likely led to such an active hurricane season. Extremely weak vertical wind shear was prevalent over both the Caribbean and the tropical Atlantic throughout the peak months of the hurricane season, likely in part due to a weak-to-moderate La Niña event. These favorable dynamic conditions, combined with above-normal tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures, created a very conducive environment for hurricane formation and intensification. The Madden–Julian oscillation was relatively active during the summer and fall of 1933, providing subseasonal conditions that were quite favorable for tropical cyclogenesis during mid- to late August and late September to early October. The current early June and August statistical models used by Colorado State University would have predicted a very active 1933 hurricane season. A better understanding of these extremely active historical Atlantic hurricane seasons may aid in anticipation of future hyperactive seasons.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy.

Corresponding author: Philip J. Klotzbach, philk@atmos.colostate.edu
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