Why does it seem hurricanes make landfall at night?

Notion is more perception than reality

Hurricane Laura takes aim on the Louisiana coast.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Major Hurricane Laura is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast, likely Louisiana, late Wednesday into early Thursday.

If you are thinking, “Why do hurricanes tend to make landfall at night?” You are not alone.

The reality of the situation is that there is no scientific or meteorological correlation that determines whether a storm makes landfall at night or during the day. In fact, over the past four season, most of the hurricanes have made landfall during the day.

NOTE: The category at landfall is in parenthesis.

2020 season:

Hanna(1): 6 p.m. (DAY)

Isaias(1) 11:10p.m. (NIGHT)

2019 season:

Barry(1) 11a.m. (DAY)

Dorian(5) 12:40 p.m.(DAY)

2018 season:

Florence(1): 7:15a.m. (DAY)

Michael(5): 12:30 p.m. (DAY)

2017 season:

Harvey(4): 11 p.m. (NIGHT)

Irma: Keys(4) 9:10a.m./Marco Island(3) 3:35 p.m. (DAY)

Nate(1) 8 p.m. (DAY)

2004 seaosn:

Charley(4): 3:45 p.m. (DAY)

Frances(2): Midnight (NIGHT)

Ivan(3) 3 a.m. (NIGHT)

Jeanne(3) 11:50 p.m. (NIGHT)

Notable Storms:

Andrew(5): 5 a.m. (NIGHT)

Katrina(3): 7:10 a.m. (DAY)

NOTE: The 2004 season, which if you have lived in Florida since then, you know all to well. Three out of the four storms that made landfall in Florida happened at night. This may help to skew our perception that most hurricanes make landfall at night since we were impacted.

Andrew, another notable Florida hurricane, of course, made landfall before the sun came up in 1992. Hurricanes also tend to last a decent amount of time and typically span night and day, and, even though landfall may occur during the day, conditions deteriorate at night or vice versa.

Tropical systems do strengthen at night

Storms do tend to intensify at night, however, due to a process known as latent heat release. The upper levels of the atmosphere cool because the sun has gone down. This allows for more water vapor to condense into clouds. With more cooling and condensing, more latent heat is released into the atmosphere.

The hurricane itself then feeds off of this, increasing instability. This is, oftentimes, why you find a hurricane stronger when you wake up in the morning. This process is all dependent on whether the environment is conducive to strengthening, warm water, low shear and abundant moisture.

About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.