When you consider lofty odds like the chances you will win the Mega Million lottery (1 in 259 million) or the chance you will get hit by lightning (1 in 280,000) it blunts your appreciation of very unlikely, if not statistically improbable, events.
Consider some of the things with 500-to-1 odds:
- An Auburn fan bet that his team would win the NCAA football national championship. He came close to a $50k payday but ultimately missed the mark.
- Pro golfer Rory McIlroy’s father bet his son would win the British Open by 25 at 500-1 odds and won $171k.
- One lucky European better predicted Germany would stomp Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup and won.
We witnessed something that has a 500-1 chance of happening recently in nature: two storms hit Bermuda within six days of each other. Bermuda was recently hit by a tropical storm (Fay) and a borderline category 2/3 hurricane (Gonzalo) within six days. The chances of two tropical systems hitting what amounts to a tiny dot in the middle of Atlantic Ocean this year was 1-in-500 according to our modeling.
Not statistically improbable, but certainly not a normal occurrence.
Even more impressive, the natural fluke comes after a relatively inactive hurricane season. There have been seven named storms in 2014; six have reached hurricane status.
The climatological peak of the Atlantic season for hurricanes is mid-September and generally associated with storms that develop as they cross from Africa toward the Caribbean. However, there is a secondary peak in October related to storms developing closer to the U.S. in areas such as the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
The cumulative intensity of this season’s storms is lower than average. Our research attributes this to cooler than normal sea temperatures in the Atlantic lessening energy, along with higher than normal sea pressures suppressing thunderstorms. It would be interesting to see what the odds were for Gonzalo and Fay both hitting Bermuda if we factored in a slow hurricane season.