Why 2020 has spun out of control

Published on September 24th, 2020

There isn’t much that hasn’t spun out of control in 2020, and the Atlantic hurricane season (Jun 1-Nov 30) is on that list. The Washington Post explains how extra-warm ocean waters, boosted by climate change, and La Niña are key drivers in this historic season.


By late spring, the consensus among experts was unsettlingly clear: 2020 would be an abnormally active hurricane season. What the experts didn’t anticipate was just how wild things would get.

As of September 23, with more than two months left in hurricane season, the Atlantic had already spit out 23 named storms — roughly double its long-term average for an entire season. For only the second time in its history, the National Hurricane Center exhausted its regular list of 21 names the prior week and began using the Greek alphabet.

Few coastal zones in the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast have remained untouched. Nearly 90 percent of these U.S. shores have been under a tropical storm or hurricane advisory in 2020, with a record nine storms making landfall (tied with 1916).

The pace has been frenzied even by the standards of the busiest year on record, 2005. That season didn’t make it to its 23rd tropical or subtropical storm until Oct. 22. This year, that happened more than a month sooner, on Sept. 18. That was also the only day in history on which the Hurricane Center has named three storms (Wilfred, Alpha and Beta).

While forecasters scramble to keep up, researchers are puzzling over what’s made 2020 such a banner year. Full report.

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