NEW YORK, May 14 (UPI) -- It's been more than nine years since the last major hurricane, Category 3 or larger, made landfall on U.S. soil. With another quiet hurricane season expected in 2015, it could soon be a decade of relative calm on the East Coast.
Scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, say it's a drought that can only be expected every 177 years. According to a new study, it's the longest the United States has gone without a major hurricane landfall since reliable record keeping began in 1850.
"Major," in this context, is a scientific term. A good number of people along the New Jersey shore are liable to laugh off any study that doesn't deem Hurricane Sandy to be major. The deadly storm caused major damage, of course -- one of the costliest in history.
But Sandy was a Category 2 hurricane by the time it smashed into New York and New Jersey. The last Category 3 hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Hurricane Wilma, which made landfall in Florida.
The study didn't attempt to locate a cause for the drought, but scientists say it's most likely just a matter of chance.
"The last nine hurricane seasons were not weak -- storms just didn't hit the U.S.," researcher Timothy Hall said in a press release. "It seems to be an accident of geography, random good luck."
The drought doesn't make the odds of a major hurricane hitting in 2015 any greater. Just like a there's still a 50-50 chance of landing on heads after a flipped coin has hit tails several times in a row, there's still the same chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the coming months -- 39 percent.
"Each year is roughly independent of the year before," Hall said. "There are known signals, and natural cycles, and possibly human-induced influences. But for the most part, they are independent, especially for the rare intense landfalls."
What role global warming is having (or will have) on storm formation and hurricane patterns remains unclear, Hall says. It's one of the areas of climate science where disagreement and conflicting theories remain the norm.
Hall's latest hurricane study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.