Little Compass Rose Caribbean Compass August 1998

Hurricane Landfalls

by David Jones

In the May 1998 issue of Compass, I wrote about the latest forecast from Colorado State University for the 1998 hurricane season and pointed out that the forecast envisaged an increased chance of the classic Cape Verde hurricanes forming this year in the tropical Atlantic. I also mentioned in that article that a long-term analysis of tracks of hurricanes forming in this area shows that their tracks tend to lie between 15°N and 25°N at 60°W and thus closely approach or pass over the northern part of the island chain and the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Cape Verde hurricanes tend to be the more intense type of hurricane and thus there is an increased risk that we shall see a major hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean this year.

I was recently asked if I could be more specific as to likely landfalls of classic hurricanes in the Eastern Caribbean. So I decided to analyze the tracks of all the hurricanes that passed between 10°N and 19°N at 60°W during the period from 1950 to 1997. All together there were some 20 hurricanes during that period which met the criteria. I then analyzed each system as to its area of formation and the time of formation, with "Early" being prior to August 15 and "Late" after September 30. If the hurricane formed east of 35°W then I considered it to be the classic Cape Verde type. I further analyzed the tracks to see which of these systems approached with 75 miles of some of the more popular anchorages from Puerto Rico to Trinidad. This analysis of Eastern Caribbean hurricane tracks for the years 1950-1997 provides some interesting landfall statistics! Here's the result:

Perhaps the most surprising result is that neither the southern Windwards nor Trinidad is immune from hurricanes, despite rumors to the contrary. It is clear, however, that the classic Cape Verde hurricane is more likely to affect the more northern islands in the island chain. An analysis of the tracks of all of the classic type of hurricanes for the past 90 years indicates that roughly two-thirds crossed the 60°W meridian between 18°N and 25°N.

David Jones, ZBVI Radio's Weather Man and founder of The Caribbean Weather Center, is based Road Town, Tortola, BVI. Visit Caribbean Weather's interactive website for details of the full range of customized forecasting activities for the Caribbean.

Copyright© 1998 Compass Publishing