AMONG STRONGEST HURRICANES EVER TO STRIKE U.S.;
WETTER, MUCH WARMER THAN AVERAGE JUNE-AUGUST FOR NATION
15, 2005 — The June-August
summer season was the tenth warmest on record for the contiguous
U.S., while precipitation was above average. Global temperatures were
second highest on record for the boreal summer, which runs from June
1 through August 31. Twelve named tropical systems formed in the Atlantic
by the end of August, including Hurricane
Katrina, which was among the strongest hurricanes ever to strike
the U.S., according to scientists at the NOAA
National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. (Click
NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Katrina taken on Aug.
28, 2005, at 11:45 a.m. EDT, as the powerful storm churned in the Gulf
of Mexico as a Category Five storm with sustained winds near 175 mph,
a day before the storm made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Click
here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
KATRINA — MOST DESTRUCTIVE HURRICANE TO EVER STRIKE THE
Katrina will be recorded as the most destructive storm in terms
of economic losses, it will likely not exceed the human losses
in storms such as the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which killed
as many as 6,000-12,000 people, and led to almost complete destruction
of coastal Galveston.
Andrew, in 1992, cost approximately $21 billion in insured losses
(in today's dollars), whereas estimates from the insurance industry
as of Sept. 15, 2005, have reached approximately $60 billion
in insured losses from Katrina. The storm could cost the Gulf
Coast states as much as an additional $120 billion.
NOAA scientists report that the average
temperature for the contiguous U.S. for the June-August summer season
(based on preliminary data) was 1.2 degrees F (0.7 degrees C) above
the 1895-2004 mean. This was the tenth warmest summer on record, with
each state experiencing either near average or above average temperatures.
Much above-average temperatures stretched from Missouri and Iowa to
the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. New Jersey had its warmest summer on
record, while New York, Vermont and Massachusetts had their second warmest.
Statewide temperatures also were much above average in Florida, Louisiana
warmth was not confined to the contiguous U.S. New all-time summer records
were established in Honolulu and at the airport on Molokai, Hawaii,
where the average seasonal temperatures were 83.1 degrees F (28.4 degrees
C) and 78.9 degrees F (26.1 degrees C), respectively. The average summer
temperature in Alaska was 2.0 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) above average,
the third warmest such season on record for the state.
Precipitation was above average for the nation overall but with significant
regional variability. Wetter-than-average conditions occurred in much
of the Southeast and the central Plains states from Oklahoma to North
Dakota and Minnesota. Near-average to drier-than-average conditions
occurred throughout the West, except California, which had its twelfth
wettest summer on record. Unusually dry conditions occurred in parts
of the interior Pacific Northwest that continue to be affected by a
multi-year drought. Moderate-to-extreme drought also stretched across
much of the area from the southern Mississippi Valley to the upper Great
Lakes with drought disasters declared in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois
and Wisconsin during the summer. At the end of August, moderate-to-extreme
drought (as defined by a widely-used measure of drought—the Palmer
Drought Index) affected 16 percent of the U.S.
also contributed to an active western wildfire season. Through the end
of August, more than 3.6 million acres had burned in the contiguous
U.S. and more than 3.8 million acres in Alaska. The total of 7.4 million
acres for the U.S. as a whole is approaching the record of 8.4 million
acres, which burned in 2000.
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season began as the most active on record,
with four named storms (Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Dennis) by July 5. Twelve
named storms formed by the end of August—the eleventh, Hurricane
Katrina, became the most destructive hurricane to ever strike the U.S.
It first struck southern Florida on August 25 as a Category One storm.
It quickly re-intensified once it moved west into the warm Gulf waters,
which were 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit (1-2 degrees C) above normal. Katrina
continued to strengthen as it turned toward the northwest and eventually
north during the next few days.
sustained winds reached 175 mph (150 knots) and its minimum central
pressure dropped as low as 902 millibars (a measure of a hurricane's
strength—the fourth lowest on record for an Atlantic hurricane.
The storm's intensity diminished slightly as it approached the central
Gulf Coast, but Katrina remained a strong Category Four storm until
landfall along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts on August 29. Although
its intensity at landfall was less than that of Hurricane Camille, which
devastated coastal Mississippi in August 1969, the size of Katrina,
with hurricane force winds extending 120 miles from its center, was
much larger and the destruction more widespread than Camille.
storm surge reached as far east as Mobile, Ala., inundating parts of
the city. Large parts of Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss., were covered with
water as a result of a 20 to 30-plus foot storm surge that reached far
inland. The combination of strong winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge
led to breaks in the earthen levee system that separates New Orleans
from surrounding lakes and canals, leaving large parts of New Orleans
under 20 feet of water.
The average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces
for the June-August season (based on preliminary data) was 1.1 degrees
F (0.6 degrees C) above the 1880-2004 long-term mean. This was the second
warmest June-August since 1880 (the beginning of reliable instrumental
records). The warmest June-August was in 1998 with an anomaly of 1.2
degrees F (0.7 degrees C) above the mean. Warmer-than-average conditions
covered most land areas of the world.
agency of the U.S. Department of
Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national
safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related
events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal
and marine resources.
Relevant Web Sites
of 2005 - August in Historical Perspective, including Boreal Summer
of 2005 - Summary of Hurricane Katrina
John Leslie, NOAA
Satellites and Information Service, (301) 457-5005