Saturday, December 17, 2011

Irene Officially Not A Jersey Hurricane After All

At the time of landfall back in August along the Jersey Shore, Irene was classified as a minimal hurricane that sported 75 mph winds.   However, in postseason analysis from the National Hurricane Center, Irene's maximum winds were downgraded from 75 to just under 70 miles per hour (technically 60 knots).   This analysis is typical and is a part of the review process each tropical system gets during the year.

"It's a very small change," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the hurricane center in an article in the Wall Street Journal. "The difference residents would see is about the same. There's no perceivable difference."
Graphic from Sunday 8/29 as Irene was tracking north off the Jersey coast. 

Officially, the "biggest difference" is no classified hurricane landfall in terms of "name"...and that means we're still looking back to the 1903 hurricane as the last official hurricane landfall in the Garden State.

Of course, if it were my way we'd revisit the whole hurricane/tropical storm classification since storms like Irene (or Lee and Allison if you want to look at remnant systems) sometimes have more impact and more destruction than fast-moving hurricanes like Gloria.   No two storms are alike but hurricanes have that meme going for them that they are by title alone worse than tropical storms in terms of scale and impact.  Granted, some hurricanes (Katerina, Ike, Andrew to name three notorious examples) definitely have the bite to match the bark.   However, this year's tropical storm barrage across the Mid Atlantic should open the conversation in the scientific realm to rethink how we title these storms and that perhaps just naming them all tropical cyclones/storms might be an improvement.