Hurricane Ava was the earliest forming Category 5 hurricane on record in the East Pacific basin. The storm is also tied with 2006's Hurricane Ioke as the fifth-strongest Pacific hurricane on record. It was the first named storm of the 1973 Pacific hurricane season. Forming in early June, Hurricane Ava eventually reached Category 5 intensity on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, the first Pacific hurricane to do so in June and the earliest ever in a season. Its central pressure made it the most intense known Pacific hurricane at the time. Despite its intensity, Ava stayed at sea without significant impact.

Hurricane Ava
Ava near peak intensity on June 6
Meteorological history
FormedJune 2, 1973
DissipatedJune 12, 1973
Category 5 major hurricane
1-minute sustained (SSHWS/NWS)
Highest winds160 mph (260 km/h)
Lowest pressure915 mbar (hPa); 27.02 inHg
Overall effects
Areas affectedCalifornia
IBTrACSEdit this at Wikidata

Part of the 1973 Pacific hurricane season

Ava was given the most advanced measurement and reconnaissance available at the time. Recon flights were conducted and meteorological equipment was tested. The hurricane was also photographed from space by satellites and Skylab astronauts.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the storm's track and intensity, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale
Map key
  Tropical depression (≤38 mph, ≤62 km/h)
  Tropical storm (39–73 mph, 63–118 km/h)
  Category 1 (74–95 mph, 119–153 km/h)
  Category 2 (96–110 mph, 154–177 km/h)
  Category 3 (111–129 mph, 178–208 km/h)
  Category 4 (130–156 mph, 209–251 km/h)
  Category 5 (≥157 mph, ≥252 km/h)
Storm type
  Extratropical cyclone, remnant low, tropical disturbance, or monsoon depression

On June 2, 1973, a tropical depression formed about 250 miles (400 km) south of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. It started out nearly stationary, and became a tropical storm late on the same day it formed, the first named storm of the 1973 Pacific hurricane season. Ava then slowly moved westwards away from Mexico and became a hurricane on June 3. Ava became a major hurricane on the afternoon of June 5. On the next day, a United States Air Force recon flight measured a wind speed of 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour) and a central pressure of 915 millibars (27.0 inches of mercury). These measurements made Hurricane Ava by far the most intense storm of the season.[1]

At its peak, Ava had winds of 160 mph (260 km/h).[1] These winds made the storm a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale (SSHS), the highest category on the scale,[2] and the first Category 5 hurricane since the 1959 season.[3] Ava was also a hurricane with windspeeds rapidly increasing the closer to the eye they were measured. Over a distance of 4 mi (6.4 km), wind speeds increased from 70 to 158 mph (113 to 254 km/h), and they increased from 105 to 158 mph (169 to 254 km/h) over half that distance. The reading of 915 mbar (27.0 inHg) was roughly 100 mbar (3.0 inHg) lower than the ambient environment far from the storm.[1]

After its peak, Ava started weakening on June 7, as it continued its westward path. Its winds were 140 mph (225 km/h) on June 7 and 115 mph (185 km/h) on the next day. It was no longer a major hurricane after its winds fell to 105 mph (169 km/h) on June 9. Later that day it weakened to a tropical storm. It then weakened to a tropical depression on June 11. The system then turned north and dissipated on June 12. Its remnants then became embedded in the trade winds as a tropical wave.[1]

Forecasting and observation

Radar during a recon flight

In terms of how well it was forecast, Ava had the largest error of any cyclone during the season. This 14° error five days out was mainly due to its northward turn when it was a weakening depression.[1]

For a few days, Ava was directly underneath Skylab during its first manned mission.[1] Astronauts acquired photographs of the hurricane,[4] which was big enough for Science Pilot Joseph Kerwin to describe it as "an enormous spiral" that was big enough to dominate the view outside the space station's window and prevent anything else from being seen.[5] Astronauts also provided microwave data through Earth Resources Experiment Package sensors.[4] Skylab also used a scatterometer on the system.[6] Unfortunately, Skylab's scatterometer data was harder to use than normal as it was degraded.[7]

Ava was also underneath the NOAA-2 and Nimbus 5 weather satellites. NOAA-2 provided photographs that were used to estimate Ava's maximum windspeeds. Satellite images were useful throughout the cyclone's existence, as did the wind reports of three ships when Ava was a young tropical storm.[1] Nimbus 5 carried an Electrically Scanning Microwave Radiometer and Temperature-Humidity Infrared Radiometer.[8] Both were used to study Ava. The main data provided by the THIR was data indicating cloud temperatures. The ESMR's main data was on rainfall rates, densities, and distributions. The observations also provided confirmation that clouds that are not vertically developed very much can produce tropical rainfall.[9]

Recon aircraft also penetrated Hurricane Ava. It was the first Pacific hurricane penetrated by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration aircraft,[10] but not by aircraft from other agencies.[11] NOAA craft were laden with sensors and measured wave heights reaching 40 feet (12 metres) with a microwave radar system and a laser altimeter.[1] That was the first time ever that sea conditions in a tropical cyclone had been measured that way.[1] United States Air Force planes measured central pressure, air temperature, and humidity in the eye pressures using dropsondes.[1] The collection of data from both space and the air was done in order to allow comparisons.[12] Collectively, all of this measuring made Hurricane Ava the best-measured northeastern Pacific tropical cyclone at the time.[1]

Impact and records

Most intense Pacific hurricanes[3]
Rank Hurricane Season Pressure
hPa inHg
1 Patricia 2015 872 25.75
2 Linda 1997 902 26.64
3 Rick 2009 906 26.76
4 Kenna 2002 913 26.96
5 Ava 1973 915 27.02
Ioke 2006
7 Marie 2014 918 27.11
9 Guillermo 1997 919 27.14
10 Gilma 1994 920 27.17
Listing is only for tropical cyclones in the Pacific Ocean
north of the equator and east of the International Dateline

Hurricane Ava stayed at sea.[13] Consequently, no one was killed and there was no reported damage. However, when it was a recently named tropical storm, Ava did cause sustained winds below gale-force to three ships called the Joseph Lykes, Hoegh Trotter, and Volnay.[1] In addition, large ocean waves churned up by Ava created hazardous surf and strong riptides at Southern California beaches on June 9 and June 10. Those waves reached heights of up to 9 ft (2.7 m) at Newport Beach, 6 ft (1.8 m) at Long Beach, and 8 ft (2.4 m) at Seal Beach. Those waves made beaches more hazardous, resulting in double-to-triple the usual contingent of lifeguards throughout Southern California beaches. At Seal Beach and Newport Beach, lifeguards made 35 and 75 rescues, respectively.[14]

When it was active, Hurricane Ava set many records. Several have since been broken, but Ava still holds a few. Ava ceased being a Category 5 hurricane on June 7, 1973.[3] Emilia (1994) reached Category 5 intensity on July 19, 1994.[15] This span of 7,712 days, which Ava began and Emilia ended, is the longest time between successive Category 5 hurricanes in the northeastern Pacific, and anywhere worldwide, in recorded history. When Hurricane Gilma reached Category 5 strength on July 24, also in 1994, it marked the shortest gap between Category 5 Pacific hurricanes recorded.[3] Ava was also a Category 5 hurricane for exactly 24 hours; a record at the time. Hurricane John broke that in the 1994 season, and hurricanes Linda and Ioke also lasted longer, tied with John.[16] In addition, Ava is the strongest June tropical cyclone in the western hemisphere north of the equator.[3][17]

A spokesperson from the U.S. National Weather Service was quoted as saying that, "Ava had sustained winds of about 180 knots with some gusts at 200 knots when she [sic] was peaking".[14] However, the official "Best track" data file and the seasonal summary in the Monthly Weather Review contradict that report and give maximum winds of 140 knots.[1][3] If Ava's winds were that high, they would one of the highest ever reported in a tropical cyclone anywhere. Like any report of winds that high it is suspect.[18]

At the time, Hurricane Ava's minimum known pressure of 915 mbar (27.0 inHg) was the lowest-known in its basin, making Ava the most intense Pacific hurricane. Ava is now the fifth-most intense, tied with Hurricane Ioke, as hurricanes Patricia, Linda, Rick and Kenna recorded lower pressures.[3] However, Linda's and Rick's pressures were only estimated from satellite imagery,[19] so Ava held the record for lowest measured pressure until Kenna surpassed it in 2002.[20] However, the meteorological record for the eastern north Pacific are unreliable because geostationary satellite observation did not begin until 1966.[19] Ava's pressure record is itself incomplete; Ava was only a Category 4 when its 915 mbar (27.0 inHg) pressure was measured, and the only reading from when it was a Category 5 hurricane is 928 mbar (27.4 inHg).[21] These two factors mean that Ava's lowest pressure may be below 915 mbar (27.0 inHg), and that there may be other cyclones stronger than Ava.[22]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Robert A. Baum (April 1974). "Eastern North Pacific Hurricane Season of 1973". Monthly Weather Review. 102 (4). American Meteorological Society: 297–301. Bibcode:1974MWRv..102..296B. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1974)102<0296:ENPHSO>2.0.CO;2.
  2. ^ "Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g National Hurricane Center; Hurricane Research Division; Central Pacific Hurricane Center (April 26, 2024). "The Northeast and North Central Pacific hurricane database 1949–2023". United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Archived from the original on May 29, 2024. A guide on how to read the database is available here.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b "Introduction". SP-399 Skylab EREP Investigations Summary. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  5. ^ "First Hurricane". The Daily Courier. Connellsville, Pennsylvania: The Hurricane Newspaper Archive. 1973-06-08. p. 13.
  6. ^ Arthur K. Jordan, Charles G, Purves, & James F. Diggs (1975-05-02). "Analysis of Skylab II S193 Scatterometer Data". Defense Technical Information Center. Archived from the original on 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2008-01-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ V. H. Kaupp; J. C. Holtzman (January 1979). "Skylab Scatterometer Measurements of Hurricane Ava: Anomalous Data Correction". IEEE Transactions on Geoscience Electronics. 17 (1). IEEE: 6. Bibcode:1979ITGE...17....6K. doi:10.1109/TGE.1979.294602. S2CID 40700911.
  8. ^ Lewis J. Allison; Edward B. Rodgers; Thomas B. Wilheit; Robert W. Fett (September 1974). "Tropical Cyclone Rainfall as Measured by the Nimbus 5 Electrically Scanning Microwave Radiometer". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 55 (9). American Meteorological Society: 1074–1089. Bibcode:1974BAMS...55.1074A. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1974)055<1074:TCRAMB>2.0.CO;2.
  9. ^ Lewis J. Allison; Edward B. Rodgers; Thomas B. Wilheit; Robert W. Fett (September 1974). "Tropical Cyclone Rainfall as Measured by the Nimbus 5 Electrically Scanning Microwave Radiometer". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 55 (9). American Meteorological Society: 1077. Bibcode:1974BAMS...55.1074A. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1974)055<1074:TCRAMB>2.0.CO;2.
  10. ^ "Wea01151". NOAA Photo Library. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  11. ^ Gary Padgett. "Monthly Global Tropical Cyclone Summary August 2000". Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  12. ^ David Shayler (2001). Skylab: America's Space Station. Springer. p. 267. ISBN 978-1-85233-407-9. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  13. ^ "Hurricane AVA". Unisys. Archived from the original (GIF) on 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  14. ^ a b Tom Williams (1973-06-11). "'Hurricane surf' hits Southland; lifeguards busy". Long Beach Independent. Long Beach, California: The Hurricane Newspaper Archive. p. A3.
  15. ^ "The 1994 Central Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season". Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  16. ^ Neal Dorst (2004-08-13). "Subject: E8) What hurricanes have been at Category Five status the longest?". FAQ. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  17. ^ "Atlantic hurricane best track (HURDAT version 2)" (Database). United States National Hurricane Center. April 5, 2023. Retrieved July 23, 2024.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  18. ^ Chris Landsea (2006-11-28). "Subject: E1) Which is the most intense tropical cyclone on record?". FAQ. National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  19. ^ a b Max Mayfield (1997-10-25). "Preliminary Report Hurricane Linda". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  20. ^ Richard J. Pasch (October 23, 2015). Hurricane Patricia Discussion Number 14 (Report). Miami, Florida: National Hurricane Center. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  21. ^ "Hurricane AVA". Unisys. Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  22. ^ Max Mayfield (1997-10-02). "Preliminary Report Hurricane Guillermo" (PDF). National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2018-10-07.