Do hurricanes ever hit the Northeast states? While the remnants of these storms often impact cities like Boston, New York City, Washington DC, and Philadelphia, it’s very uncommon and rare for a category level hurricane to impact cities in the Northeast.
Does it happen sometimes? While cities along the northern East Coast are very familiar with nor’easters which have many of the same features of hurricanes (but don’t require warm water), it’s rare for a Category 1 or higher tropical system to make it that far north given the water temperatures in that area of the United States.
In cases where a strong category level storm comes up the East Coast and is moving very fast, it’s possible the storm stays together to impact land areas in the north assuming the system doesn’t remain out to sea.
The Future For New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, And Washington DC
There are two meteorological conditions which keep the north relatively safe from tropical storms.
The first is sea surface temperatures (SSTs) which is the fuel that powers tropical systems. In the Northeast, even in the hot summer months, SSTs are just barely high enough to maintain a hurricane or tropical storm. And, they certainly aren’t high enough to allow a storm to strengthen.
The second condition is the jet stream which provides guidance winds along the East Coast. The jet stream typically keeps these storms out to sea or disrupts the core of the storm with shear.
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For cities like New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and certainly Boston to see an intact hurricane with an enclosed eye, the jet stream will have to be situated very far north, the storm will have to be moving very fast, still have a good core presentation, and the waters off the coast will have to be at their warmest.
Are things about to change? We certainly think so considering global warming and climate change.
East Coast Changes
In the past decade, there are three very clear things happening with regard to tropical systems.
The first is these storms are becoming more frequent given higher SSTs in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and southern Atlantic Ocean. With a higher frequency of storms, the odds of places like Washington DC and Philadelphia being hit increase.
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The second concern is these storms are becoming stronger because of sea surface temperatures. As storms reach a higher category status, the likelihood of them staying intact further north in to Boston and New York City increases.
And third, as SSTs increase, waters off the coastlines near these cities will increase just enough to sustain these storms, thereby increasing the chances of landfall with an intact and enclosed eye.
If this trend continues, then storms impacting the northern East Coast will only have to overcome the jet stream to make impacts felt over this region.
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