09 April 2012

Historical Global Tropical Cyclone Landfalls

Weinkle et al. 2012 is now online at the Journal of Climate. I provided a summary of the paper a few months ago when it was accepted, including these factoids:
  • Over 1970 to 2010 the globe averaged about 15 TC landfalls per year
  • Of those 15, about 5 are intense (Category 3, 4 or 5) 
  • 1971 had the most global landfalls with 32, far exceeding the second place, 25 in 1996
  • 1978 had the fewest with 7
  • 2011 tied for second place for the fewest global landfalls with 10 (and 3 were intense, tying 1973, 1981 and 2002)
  • 1999 had the most intense TC landfalls with 9
  • 1981 had the fewest intense TC landfalls with zero
  • There have been only 8 intense TC landfalls globally since 2008 (2009-2011), very quiet but not unprecedented (two unique 3-year periods saw only 7 intense landfalls)
  • The US is currently in the midst of the longest streak ever recorded without an intense hurricane landfall  
Here is the abstract:
Historical global tropical cyclone landfalls (PDF)

Jessica Weinkle, Ryan Maue and Roger Pielke, Jr.
Journal of Climate http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00719.1

In recent decades, economic damage from tropical cyclones (TCs) around the world has increased dramatically. Scientific literature published to date finds that the increase in losses can be explained entirely by societal changes (such as increasing wealth, structures, population, etc) in locations prone to tropical cyclone landfalls, rather than by changes in annual storm frequency or intensity. However, no homogenized dataset of global tropical cyclone landfalls has been created that might serve as a consistency check for such economic normalization studies. Using currently available historical TC best-track records, we have constructed a global database focused on hurricane-force strength landfalls. Our analysis does not indicate significant long-period global or individual basin trends in the frequency or intensity of landfalling TCs of minor or major hurricane strength. This evidence provides strong support for the conclusion that increasing damage around the world during the past several decades can be explained entirely by increasing wealth in locations prone to TC landfalls, which adds confidence to the fidelity of economic normalization analyses.


  1. Do you know how Cyclone landfall relates to total cyclone numbers?

  2. Might want to check the meaning of the word factoid too. I made that mistake once ;)

  3. Roger

    Land fall and intensity are dependent on the path of the TC e.g a North Atlantic TC that enters the Caribbean/Gulf will tend to intensify vs one that heads north and peters out. If you are trying to see if there is a GW signal wouldn't it be better look at these storms at some other point. Such as with NA TC's take some point of longitude after formation off W Africa?

  4. Mike McHenry:

    I don't see why landfall would not be a good proxy for frequency. There is still a pervasive but unscientific belief within the CAGW faith community that (a) AGW increases extreme event frequency and (b) that such an increase is already happening.

    As I understand the science (as opposed to The Science) of climate, sustained warming (regardless of cause) will cause a small but statistically significant increase in the average intensity of Tropical storms (some Cat 3's will be 4's etc)but not an increase in frequency.

  5. I know this might be a really stupid question, but here goes.
    Do we know if there has been a change in the number of large hurricanes that do not make landfall?
    Is it possibility that the number of big storms is about the same throughout the time period, but sometimes they go left and sometimes they go right (as in Ike)?

  6. I don't know if I see this graph correctly, but are there 10 out of 20 years in the period 1991 to 2010 where the number of major hurricanes exceeds 5, while there are only 4 out of 20 in the period 1970 to 1990? Either there is some kind of uncertainty in the method how hurricanes are labeled major or non-major, or there is a significant increase in the major hurricane statistics compared to the total hurricane statistics. Where would this come from? The above abstract says thereis no change in intensity (line 12). This is obviously not what the figure displays. Hmmm... Seems the reviewers missed this flaw... Why?

  7. -6-JFEichner

    Thanks, have a look at the table with the linear trends reported for major hurricanes, and also the paper's discussion of where (and why) such trends may or may not be observed. The issue that you raise is indeed discussed. Thanks!