A historical revision of Atlantic tropical cyclones for the period 1851–90 is presented. This work was undertaken with the aim of improving knowledge of the tropical storms and hurricanes in the North Atlantic basin, which occurred during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Another aim of the study was to develop more reliable figures regarding cyclone frequency variations than those that were currently available. The 40-yr period covered by this study spans the 20 yr (1851–70) prior to the founding of a U.S. meteorological service as part of the U.S. Signal Service and the approximately 20 yr (1871–90) that military personnel of that service took care of the official meteorological affairs in the country, prior to the establishment of a civilian U.S. Weather Bureau within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The period 1851–90 was found to be particularly attractive from a research standpoint because it covered the time elapsed from 1855, the last year included in the storm catalog prepared by Poey, which is used in the cyclone list shown by Tannehill, to 1878, the year the Signal Service began to systematically trace all West Indian hurricanes.
A comparison of hurricane activity, in terms of the total number of storms, is made between the 40-yr period of 1851–90, and the corresponding period in the twentieth century. Even after taking into account the large differences in the observational network during these two periods, a century apart, there is some suggestion that the earlier period was relatively less active.
*Private consultant, Coral Gables, Florida.
+NOAA/ERL, Boulder, Colorado.