We Could Have Four Atlantic Named Storms at Once. That’s Not as Weird as It Sounds. – The Weather Channel

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Atlantic Activity Heats Up
  • There could be four Atlantic named storms active at once in the days ahead.
  • That has happened six other times since the 1960s.
  • One of those times was the only occurrence of four Atlantic hurricanes simultaneously.
  • Each occurrence was in the heart of the hurricane season, from late August into September.

Four tropical storms, at least one of which might be a hurricane, could be present at the same time in the Atlantic Basin in the coming days – something that sounds incredible, but has happened a number of times before.

We’re already halfway there, with Paulette and Rene in the central Atlantic Ocean.

The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring a number of other disturbances that could spawn a tropical depression or tropical storm in the coming days.

Active Storms and Potential Development Areas

(The potential area(s) of tropical development according to the latest National Hurricane Center outlook are shown by polygons, color-coded by the chance of development over the next five days. An “X” indicates the location of a current disturbance. Current named storms are labeled by name.)

Since satellites began to fully cover the Atlantic Basin in 1966, the record number of simultaneous Atlantic Basin named storms is four, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a tropical scientist at Colorado State University.

That’s happened six times, including as recently as two years ago.

As Hurricane Florence headed toward the Carolinas in mid-September 2018, Hurricane Helene and tropical storms Isaac and Joyce were spinning in the central Atlantic Ocean.

Infrared satellite image showing four Atlantic named storms at once – hurricanes Florence and Helene, and tropical storms Isaac and Joyce – on Sept. 12, 2018.

(NOAA/NCEI)

Ten years before that, the inland remnant of what was once Hurricane Gustav, as well as hurricanes Hanna and Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine, were lined up from Sept. 2-4, 2008.

Similar to the previous image, but for Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine on the evening of Sept. 3, 2008.

(NOAA/NCEI)

It also happened during the 2004 hurricane season, infamous for the four Florida hurricane strikes.

From Sept. 22 to 24, Tropical Storm Ivan made its second landfall in southwestern Louisiana after its weird remnant loop over the Southeast following its most devastating landfall.

At the same time, Hurricane Jeanne was completing its counterclockwise loop east of the Bahamas, Karl was a formidable central Atlantic hurricane and Tropical Storm Lisa was between Africa and the Lesser Antilles.

Same as above, except a visible satellite image of Tropical Storm Ivan, Hurricane Jeanne, Hurricane Karl and Tropical Storm Lisa on Sept. 23, 2004.

(NOAA/NCEI)

Four named storms at once has also happened on Aug. 28, 1995 (Humberto, Iris, Karen and Luis), and Sep. 12, 1971 (Edith, Fern, Ginger and Heidi).

Four Hurricanes at Once

The only other time four named storms happened at once, according to Klotzbach, was also the only documented time four hurricanes were in progress at once in the Atlantic Basin.

From the morning of Sept. 25, 1998, through the following evening, hurricanes Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl were in progress at once. As Georges headed for a northern Gulf Coast landfall, the trifecta of Ivan, Jeanne and Karl remained safely over the open North Atlantic Ocean.

This event yielded a truly iconic satellite image.

Infrared satellite image of four hurricanes at once in the Atlantic Basin on Sept. 26, 1998.

(Credit: NOAA)

How This Can Happen

Each of these “four-at-once” events occurred sometime between late August and late September – the peak time of the hurricane season.

This is when ocean water is warmest, the atmosphere’s ability to generate thunderstorms is at its peak and shearing winds hostile for tropical storms typically reach a seasonal low.

Furthermore, disturbances known as tropical waves, the seeds for many tropical storms and hurricanes, are numerous in late August and September, marching off Africa westward into the Atlantic Ocean. A tropical wave usually moves off West Africa every three to four days.

Current Africa Infrared Satellite

(In hurricane season, you can see the tropical waves, also known as African Easterly Waves, lined up in east-to-west fashion from near Sudan to the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Many Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes are born from these African Easterly Waves.)

Most importantly, all these favorable factors occur over a large area of the Atlantic Basin in the heart of the hurricane season. This means there can be multiple named storms and hurricanes spread through the basin at one time.

For instance, a landfalling storm in the Gulf of Mexico could happen as another storm impacts the Caribbean, a third is in the central Atlantic Ocean and a fourth is just getting started a few hundred miles off the West African coast.

This four-storms-at-once scenario did not happen during the record-setting 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, during which there were 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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