Hurricane Forecast | Hurricane Facts and Common Questions

2017 Hurricane Forecast Summary

Hurricane: A View from Outer Space

The 2017 hurricane season officially ended on November 30. Here is the summary of observed activity versus forecast—plus, hurricane facts and information from The Old Farmer’s Almanac!

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is considered June 1 through November 30. Forecasts cover the Atlantic Basin—the area encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

Summary of Observed 2017 Activity

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was forecasted as above-average by the experts at Colorado State University and other sources.

However, the season way more extreme than anticipated with levels of activity that were far higher than predicted. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria were especially destructive. Harvey brought massive flooding Houson; Irma and Maria pummeled islands throughout the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. Irma also devastated much of the Florida Keys and parts of mainland Florida. 

The 2017 hurricane season set many records. For example:

  • The Atlantic had a record number of 17 named storms, 91.25 named storm days and 10 hurricanes! Each of these were the most that the Atlantic had in a season since 2012.
  • 51.25 hurricane days occurred in 2017 – the most in a season since 1995.
  • Six major hurricanes formed in 2017 – the most in a season since 2005.
  • 19.25 major hurricane days occurred in 2017 – the most in a season since 2004.
  • The continental United States had three hurricane landfalls (Harvey, Irma and Nate) for the first time since 2008.

2017 Hurricane Summary

  June 1
Nov 30
Median Count 1981–2010
Named Storms 14 17 12
Named Storm Days 60 91.25 60.1
Hurricanes 6 10 6.5
Hurricane Days 25 51.25 21.3
Major Hurricanes 2 6 2
Major Hurricane Days 5 19.25 3.9
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) 100 226 92
Net Cyclone Activity 110% 231% 103%

See the full CSU report for more details.

Hurricane Facts, Questions, and Information

Q. How are Hurricane Names Chosen?

A. Most storm names are taken from a permanent list that rotates every 6 years. Here are this year’s tropical storm and hurricane names for both the Atlantic Basin and Eastern North-Pacific. Is your name listed?

More than 60 names have been retired since 1950 because they resulted in significant property damage or deaths. A name can be retired at the request of a country affected by the storm. See most recent list of retired hurricane names.

It should be noted that not all hurricanes were named, including some of the most deadly or damaging storms known to man.


Q. Just what is a hurricane?

A. A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of at least 74 mph in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane’s winds blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center of extremely low pressure known as the eye of the storm. Around the rim of the eye, winds may gust to more than 200 mph. The eye of a storm is usually 20 to 30 miles wide and may extend over 400 miles. The entire storm can be up to 340 miles in diameter, dominating the ocean surface and lower atmosphere for thousands of square miles.

The dangers of a storm include torrential rains, high winds, and storm surges. A hurricane can last for 2 weeks or more over open water and can follow a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, coastal areas, and barrier islands. All Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Although rarely struck by hurricanes, parts of the Southwest and Pacific Coast suffer heavy rains and floods each year from the remnants of hurricanes spawned off Mexico. Islands such as Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico also are subject to hurricanes.

Q. Is a hurricane the same as a cyclone? How is tropical weather classified?

A. A hurricane is actually one of three kinds of tropical storms, or cyclones, that circulate over tropical waters. The circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:

  • Tropical depression: An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

  • Tropical storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).

  • Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons. Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones. Hurricanes are further classified by rank according to how strong their winds are.

Q. How are hurricanes classified and what are hurricane categories?

A. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane’s present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf in the landfall region. Wind speeds are measured using a 1-minute average.

Saffir-Simpson Wind (mph) Hurricane Example
Category One 74 - 95 Allison (1995), Danny (1997)
Category Two 96 - 110 Bonnie (1998), George (1998), Gustav (2002)
Category Three 111 - 130 Roxane (1995), Fran (1996), Rita (2005)
Category Four 131 - 155 Opal (1995), Iniki (1992), Charley (2004), Katrina (2005)
Category Five 156 + Andrew (1992)

Q. What causes a hurricane to happen?

A. A tropical ocean and its atmosphere create the right conditions for a hurricane. Hurricanes draw their energy from the warm surface waters of the tropics (usually above 27°C, or about 81°F) and the latent heat of condensation. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerlies, as well as by their own ferocious energy. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rain and floods. When hurricanes move over cold water or over large landmasses, they can die out quickly because they lose the power of the heat and condensation.

Q. How do we know a hurricane is coming?

Now, thanks to satellite technology, no hurricane goes unnoticed. See our article on “Predicting Hurricanes: The Eyes Have It” to learn more.

Q. What do the hurricane warnings mean?

A. A watch means that hurricane-force winds are possible within 48 hours. A warning means that hurricane-force winds are likely within 36 hours.

Q. What caused Hurricane Katrina?

A. Hurricane Katrina (2005) was one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever strike the country and also the single most costly hurricane. The damage and loss of life inflicted by this powerful hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi were devastating, with effects stretching into Florida panhandle, Georgia, and Alabama.

Katrina was a complex storm, but to put it simply: Katrina started with the interaction of a tropical wave and the remnants of a weakening storm known as Tropical Depression Ten; the pressure disturbance become organized over the central Bahamas on August 23. It rapidly strengthened into a tropical storm and then a hurricane by the next day. Katrina was lifted towards Florida by upper-level steering winds and became a category 1 hurricane a few hours before landfall in southern Florida on the 25th. Katrina was on shore for about 7 hours and then moved into the Gulf of Mexico, reaching category 5 intensity on August 28. Katrina weakened to a strong category 3 or category 4 hurricane before making landfall on the northern Gulf coast.


Colorado State University

Reader Comments

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How do i get monthly Farmers

How do i get monthly Farmers Almanac sent to my p.o. box?

The Almanac Monthly is an

The Almanac Monthly is an electronic magazine for your tablet or computer. There is no printed edition to mail to a PO box.


Up dates on weather

Monthly newsletter

Please add me to the monthly distribution. Thanks

you forgot hurricane IKE on

you forgot hurricane IKE on your chart sept. 2008 cat-4

Thanks. To clarify, we're

Thanks. To clarify, we're just giving examples in our chart. There are many Category 4 storms that have happened since Ike, too.

The abnormally warm sea

The abnormally warm sea surface temperature in the northern Atlantic Ocean during 2012 is best explained by the submarine eruption of the El Hierro volcano in the western Canary Islands during October 2011 to March 2012. See URL for details.

What are the chances

What are the chances something like sandy will happen again in our lifetime. We have major damage to our house due to water coming in from bay near Atlantic beach Long Island should we invest in moving our electric panel to higher ground?

Hi, Mimi, Sorry to hear about

Hi, Mimi, Sorry to hear about your difficulties with Hurricane Sandy. We think about you all every day. As for whether this kind of weather event might happen again... It's impossible to say. The experts seem to be of the mind that similar events could occur in the foreseeable future, primarily because the Atlantic Ocean is abnormally warm while at the same time the temperature of the Pacific is variable (yes, the Pacific Ocean) and certain conditions are in place in the north Atlantic. The temperatures of the oceans vary, sometimes over months, sometimes over years.
However, you would be wise to take whatever cautions you can against any future event—and you will probably rest easier just knowing that you have done all that you can. Best wishes for a thorough and swift recovery. (It must have been frightening!) And thanks for your interest in The Old Farmer's Almanac.

What would happen if the same

What would happen if the same area of Hurricane Kat. would be hit again by a different one?(Same power) Would the effect caused by it be much worse or the same or even not as bad? Just a thought.

Intersting. This says below

Intersting. This says below avg chance of Hurricanes this year

Okay, I'm in southern

Okay, I'm in southern NH..Milford,besides the handy weatherman how can I tell if "Irene" is gonna get us good or just alot of hype??

There is another free

There is another free resource for hurricanes and long range weather at that includes weekly information through Sept. 21st. Thanks

I read about hurricane in my

I read about hurricane in my school days though I didn't get much information about hurricane in my school books, but here I get more information about hurricane. I didn't know hurricane nine names. And here in our country no hurricane is formed and occur, but I see in T.V. Thank you for providing a lot of information about hurricane. Now, I tell about hurricane to my younger ones. :)

The hurricane is gaining

The hurricane is gaining strength. Boats are being hauled ashore and water sport businesses are canceling reservations. Ferry trips are also canceled. Just barely a hurricane, this is the sixteenth tropical storm this year. The barely-a-hurricane Paula has already hit Mexico. Honduras and a few other nations are also in danger. Hurricane Paula - Category 1 storm ponds Mexico and Honduras. The storm isn't anticipated to strengthen, but it's predicted to continue to do serious destruction for a few days. This storm is sure to produce heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides. Residents should keep an eye on it, and prioritize their safety.

The information regarding

The information regarding watches and warnings was changed this year by the National Hurricane Center. Watches are issued 48 hours before forecast storm landfall. Warnings are issued 36 hours before forecast storm landfall. Please update the information pages, which are excellent other than this data point.

Bob Gaffney

Thank you, Bob. We have

Thank you, Bob. We have updated this page with the latest Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning definitions from the NOAA Hurricane Center.

Thanks for your comments,

Thanks for your comments, folks.
Ryderman, re the oil spill and hurricanes: There seem to be a lot of opinions and predictions of how a hurricane might effect the spill (and how the spill might effect a hurricane), but—it appears from numerous sources—nothing specific/exacting to base them on, as a situation such as exists in the Gulf has never occurred.
I am sure you, too, have your sources, but that is a statement from National Public Radio (; link to follow); note that the key word is "could": "If a hurricane encounters the oil slick now covering parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the result could be devastating, scientists say. Not only could any hurricane increase the damage that oil does to coastal wetlands, but the presence of oil could lead to a more powerful hurricane, they say. Nobody knows for sure, though, because there's no record of a hurricane ever crossing paths with a large oil spill." That's here:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created a response to questions about how a hurricane might effect the spill; see here:
That link above is actually from this page (link below), which shows the temp of Gulf and Caribbean waters in vivid orange: http://earthobservatory.nasa.g...
So, we'll see.
Cory613, we do forecast hurricanes in our weather predictions. In the General Weather Forecast (page 81 in the 2010 edition), we make this statement: "Although the hurricane season will not have a high number of storms, there may be major hits in Florida [Region 5; see page 210 or the region on this Web site near Labor Day and in the Deep South [Region 8, ditto the Web site] in late September."
It remains to be seen if indeed the U.S. experiences a high count of hurricanes this season, as many sources are predicting.
All I can say again is "we'll see." We're all in it together. Thanks again for your comments. Have a great day!

I heard a man speaking, a

I heard a man speaking, a scientist I believe from the Gulf Coast Association, he was describing how back in 1979 when we had a very huge and devastating oil spill, far greater than our current 2010 oil a hurricane "healed" the effects of the oil spill almost immediately afterwards. He also described the hurricane as natures washing machine for cleansing our earths "grime". Any comments from you are appreciated.

In 79 there was not the same

In 79 there was not the same access to technological information as we have now. If a huge hurricane was the world's washing machine, where did all the oil, dirt and grime filter to? It went somewhere no? So although we do not see all the grime and dirt left by us, it still exists and poisons us but we are not as aware of it's existence because it has been broken up into smaller peices. But that doens't mean it's gone. The particles may still be leathal.

Why aren't hurricanes in your

Why aren't hurricanes in your long range weather forcasts ?

Because they form without

Because they form without looking very different than regular ocean patterns until, 48 hours until the true forming, it can be declared as one. This can be hard to catch because they are so unpredictable.

"Hurricane, An intense

"Hurricane, An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher." Shouldn't this read "and minimum sustained winds instead of maximum ...???

"Maximum sustained wind" is a

"Maximum sustained wind" is a term used for classifying and measuring hurricanes. It refers to a wind speed that is consistent and relatively long lasting. So, a storm is classified as a hurricane if the maximum sustained winds reach at least 74 mph. Thanks for commenting!