U.S. Major Landfalling Hurricanes Down 50% Since the 1930s

September 14th, 2018 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

While the wind, storm surge, and freshwater flooding from Category 1 Hurricane Florence will no doubt cause massive damage, we should remember that – historically speaking – major landfalling hurricanes were more frequent in past decades.

Contrary to popular perception, the number of major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has dropped by an average of more than 50% since the 1930s:

While you might object that the current decade isn’t over with yet, if we assume the long-term average of 6 storms per decade continues for the remaining 2.5 hurricane seasons, the downward trend since the 1930s will still be a 50% reduction.

Why did I pick the 1930s as the starting point?

Because yesterday I presented U.S. Government data on the 36 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history, which have all occurred since the 1930s. Since the 1930s, hurricane damages have increased dramatically. But, as Roger Pielke, Jr. has documented, that’s due to a huge increase in vulnerable infrastructure in a more populous and more prosperous nation.

It’s not due to stronger hurricanes hitting the U.S. or to global warming.

78 Responses to “U.S. Major Landfalling Hurricanes Down 50% Since the 1930s”

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  1. ri says:

    Is there data for Tornado’s and other storm’s too. What about drought and other predictions of the climate change models.It would be nice to have 1 chart with the predictions and the reality of these things.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      ri….”What about drought and other predictions of the climate change models.It would be nice to have 1 chart with the predictions and the reality of these things”.

      There is no reality to them, the IPCC was forced to change the word ‘prediction’, to ‘projection, to reflect the fact climate models are unvalidated hence can predict nothing.

      Thus far, since 1988, there is no evidence of climate change that can be related to anthropogenic causes.

      About 5 years ago, hurricane expert Chris Landsea claimed there is no evidence to connect the severity and frequency of hurricanes to anthropogenic causes.

  2. Nate says:

    Not limiting to land-falling in CONUS, these are the numbers of majors by decade (starting year). The last decade scaled by 10/8.7 to account for 8.7 instead of 10 seasons.

    1930 22
    1940 20
    1950 29
    1960 28
    1970 16
    1980 17
    1990 25
    2000 36
    2010 30

    The trend is positive with slope 1.0/decade.

    Data from wikipedia.

    • CoRev says:

      Nate, I bet if you charted the decadal hurricane count with trans-oceanic air traffic you might find a correlation. A lot of historical data changes follow along with technological change.

      Just guessing though.

    • Mike M. says:

      No, the trend is not positive. There is no trend. Nor is there a trend in Roy’s data.

      Of course I use “trend” to mean “meaningful trend” because that is the only sense that has meaning.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      nate…if there was an upswing in the frequency post-2000 it was due to satellite coverage and a deeper interest in tracking hurricanes. No one would take much note of a hurricane that did not reach land and caused no damage or fatalities at sea.

      Between 1930 and 1960, there was no means of tracking hurricanes.

      • David Appell says:

        Gordon Robertson says:
        Between 1930 and 1960, there was no means of tracking hurricanes.

        There were ships at sea, very interested in what other ships were reporting re: hurricanes. And increasing amounts of air traffic. I doubt any Cat 3+ hurricanes went unnoticed.

    • Fritz Kraut says:

      Nate says:
      September 14, 2018 at 10:20 AM
      The trend is positive with slope 1.0/decade.

      If I didnt miscalculate, trend is even more: 1.44/decade

  3. thefordprefect says:

    We will of course forget about Puerto Rico, Japan, Philippines, Fiji, Windstorm Friederike, Cyclone Marcus, etc., etc. These obviously just do not count since they are Non-USA and only killed non-USA people, and only USA counts for climate.

  4. David Appell says:

    Pielke Jr’s methodology has a flaw in it, because the costs don’t include all the money spent to reduce hurricane damage — seawalls, jetties, levies, projects like the MRGO — better built houses and buildings, monitoring satellites, other money spent on hurricane monitoring and reporting, etc., plus money spent to counter sea level rise and the drop in coastal housing values ($14 B already, by one recent study).

    If it occurred today, would the 1938 New England Hurricane (Cat 3 when it entered Connecticut) kill 682 people and damage or destroy more than 57,000 homes? Very unlikely. Why not? Because we’ve spent a lot of money to be better prepared. RPJr doesn’t count that money.

    • JDHuffman says:

      DA, your methodology has a flaw in it. You ignore the hundreds of billions wasted on the AGW hoax.

    • Lewis guignard says:

      Better built houses are incremental in cost. What is the right number? Perhaps 10% increase in cost, but compared to the increase in spending on new housing, more footage, higher value interiors etc, that number decreases to insignificant.
      Satellites are an amusing idea to attribute costs – I don’t believe that is warranted. Hurricane monitoring in general is a sunk cost, no different than monitoring whales and snail darters.

      “drop in coastal housing values”…. Where. Not in Wrightsville Beach where a duplex is valued at close to $3,000,000 and Florence is still visiting.

      Anyway, David, do you make it up as you go along? (A rhetorical question)

  5. Nate says:

    Mike M.

    Agree, neither trend has much significance. Both have large error.

    But with smaller event numbers, Roy’s is less significant. But no one looking for confirmation of biases cares.

  6. Snape says:

    I posted this last night on Tamino’s blog:

    A lot of variables need to come together in order for a hurricane to be steered towards land. How does warming affect those variables? Seems like it could go either way..fewer landfalls just as likely as more.


  7. RAH says:

    The reason the alarmists started talking about costs is because the numbers on the intensity of land falling hurricanes don’t support their narrative. Unlike temperatures, they have not found a way to systematically change the records minimize the super storms of the past. It appears that Florence will be an expensive storm even though it was not a particularly powerful one at landfall. So let’s talk financial costs despite the fact that it is highly dependent on where a particular storm makes landfall.

    So much misinformation out there now days in the general media.

    Don’t think Florence comes close to “The Great Atlantic hurricane” that struck the east coast in Sept. 1944.

  8. Snape says:

    This is the sort of thing I’m talking about. Could there be a trend?

    “It was almost like we had a hurricane repellent over the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast. The storms were out there, but they just didn’t approach the U.S.”


    Lots of Hurricanes, Few U.S. Landfalls:

    “During the early part of the 2010 season in June and July, upper-level winds known as wind shear hindered the development of tropical storms.
    Wind shear diminished as the hurricane season reached its peak in mid-August, and a flurry of storms formed. But low-pressure systems kept the storms at sea.
    This year was the first time in recorded history that as many as 12 named hurricanes formed in the Atlantic without at least one of them making a U.S. landfall, said forecasters Phil Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University.”


  9. David Appell says:

    A pre-event attribution study from Stony Brook (my graduate school alma mater!), found

    “Compared to a world w/o climate change:

    – Florence will have 50% heavier rainfall
    – 50mi wider at landfall, boosting storm surge”

    via https://twitter.com/EricHolthaus/status/1040007537234530304

    Press release:


    • JDHuffman says:

      DA, maybe you could get a refund from your alma mater.

      Obviously you didn’t learn much.

    • Mike Flynn says:

      Oh dear –

      “Modified Forecast: With observed initial conditions modified to remove the estimated climate
      change signal from the temperature, moisture, and SST fields to represent a world without climate change. This is a counterfactual forecast of Hurricane Florence if it were to occur in a world without human induced global warming.”

      More stupid and delusional modelling. “Climate change signal”?

      These peanuts have no clue at all. A “pre-event” attribution of a guess to another guess. A “counterfactual forecast” indeed!

      They never learn, do they? Back to reading tea leaves, fellas. You can’t prove you won’t get better results than using all your nonsensical pseudoscientific posturing, can you?


    • Gordon Robertson says:

      DA…”A pre-event attribution study from Stony Brook (my graduate school alma mater!)…”

      I thought Stony Brook was a penal colony.

  10. Snape says:

    The whole conversation is biased towards those storms that make US landfall.

    Strongest hurricanes:

    1) Patricia
    2) Wilma
    3) Gilbert

    All struck Mexico

    *Wilma later struck the US as a much weaker storm

  11. Snape says:

    Ranked by wind speed instead of barometric pressure:

    1) Patricia
    2) Allen
    3) Irma
    4) Wilma
    5) Gilbert

    None made initial landfall on US mainland


    * Patricia was a Pacific hurricane

  12. Snape says:


    From the title, some readers might conclude that hurricanes are not getting stronger or more frequent.

    Like Nate, I’m trying to add some perspective.

    • Mike Flynn says:


      Complete nonsense. Trying to pretend you have a clue impresses only the sublimely stupid and ignorant.

      Carry on. Maybe you can create some intense destructive hurricanes by invoking the magic of CO2. Only joking. The atmosphere behaves chaotically. Perspectivate that, all you wish.

      Have you found a useful description of the amazing GHE yet? Apparently, it has nothing to do with greenhouses, nor is it a scientific effect, so describing it should be a piece of cake to a perspectivicator like you. Maybe Nate could help, do you think? Mutual perspectivication might assist enormously!


    • Nate says:

      As usual, Mike offers illuminating, insightful, fact-laden commentary.

  13. ren says:

    Eye of tropical storm Florence is now on the coast of South Carolina. It moves to the west at a speed of just 7 km / h. The wind is blowing at speeds up to 100 km / h.

    • David Appell says:

      Better information is available at a number of web sites. Your snippers are too late and out-of-date, ren. As usual. No one is looking to you for the latest information.

      • wert says:

        Is that really so, David? Are you fracking aspergernerds all?

      • Gordon Robertson says:

        DA…”Your snippers are too late and out-of-date, ren. As usual. No one is looking to you for the latest information”.

        The latest Appell whine, as if anyone pays any attention to it.

  14. ren says:

    The increase in the activity of hurricanes occurred at the same time as the increase in the activity of the solar wind (geomagnetic storms). That is why several hurricanes were created at the same time.

  15. ren says:

    Another strong jump in the speed of the solar wind.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      ren…”Another strong jump in the speed of the solar wind”.

      Whatever it is, ren, this is the coldest, wettest overall September we’ve had in Vancouver, Canada for a long time. It’s still comfortably warm on sunny days but night time temps have dropped to 10C range.

      On my late night walks I now have to wear a toque (knitted, wool head hat) and gloves.

  16. ren says:

    Strong downpours in North Carolina.
    “As Super Typhoon Mangkhut continues to sweep across the island of Luzon in the Philippines, it appears that the massive eye of the storm has collapsed in on itself. Even after making landfall and losing its eye though, the storm is still a massive Category-5 strength, shooting out rain, thunder, and lighting across thousands of square miles. In other words, if Hurricane Florence was Loki, joyfully spreading disaster and chaos, then Mangkhut is definitely Thor. Or, maybe it’s simply the Hulk. Actually, it’s more like a typhoon angel and a mutant pirate missing an eye had a baby, that baby was an avenging pirate/angel, then the angel baby grew up, it exposed itself to gamma radiation, gained incredible size and strength, stole Thor’s hammer, and used it to attack the Philippines.”

  17. ren says:

    The jet stream in the Atlantic will now push Florence to the west.

  18. Snape says:

    The mainstream media featured an excellent article on hurricane Florence/climate change:


  19. barry says:

    Contrary to popular perception, the number of major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. has dropped… since the 1930s

    Is this ‘popular perception’ something that can be verified, or is it a handy rhetorical device akin to news reporters using the diaphanous phrase “Some say…”?

    Is there any reason to think that Atlantic hurricanes specifically hitting the US says anything about overall change?

    The number of US land-falling hurricanes is going to be essentially random, owing to the large area storms may travel in the Atlantic. Consequently, I wonder why this specific metric is of interest. Doesn’t seem to be about the well-being of Americans who might endure such storms, and it isn’t about IPCC forecasts of hurricanes, which doesn’t predict increased frequency.

  20. ren says:

    The center of Florence is on the South Carolina coast. It will turn west.

  21. Nate says:

    Well, with Michael, the bar for the current decade just increased by 50%.

    And your ‘trend’ just changed significantly. Illustrates how dumb this chart is. It reflects the high variability of a small number of dice rolls, and not much else.

    Its like me going bowling: lots of high velocity gutter balls, and rarely, some spares and strikes.

  22. Bob D says:

    So for 8 decades, you’re taking the numbers (8,10,8,6,4,5,5,7) and claiming that there’s a negative trend.

    If you’d done a chi-squared test, you’d have found that you can expect data at least as variable as this about 75% of the time from a zero trend background.

    There’s no evidence here for a negative trend. Even including the low value in the current decade. There’s also no evidence for a drop from the 1851-1930 mean.

    This is pre-undergraduate statistics. You’re supposed to be a professional. It’s a bit pathetic.

  23. TexasJul says:

    Wikipedia is NEVER used a legitimate source of information by professionals, DA.

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