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2020 Atlantic hurricane season reaches new milestone as dangerous storms make landfall

Dhaluza | Wikimedia Commons

The National Hurricane Center announced the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has broken the record for most named storms, with Tropical Storm Theta being the 29th storm. 2020 exceeded a record that was previously set in 2005 with 28 storms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had an idea that 2020 would be active in terms of the hurricane season. They “predicted this would be an above-average season early on, and mid-season it upped its expectations” The Miami Herald reported.

Theta produced winds that were “nearing hurricane strength” because the maximum sustained winds were 70 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said, according to The New York Times.

The season has been so active that the 21 alphabetical names for storms that were set by the World Meteorological Organization have all been used, including Dolly, Arthur and Isaias.

Consequently, WMO has started referring to tropical cyclones with letters of the Greek alphabet since September, which has only ever happened before in 2005.

That’s significant considering some of the hurricanes and storms in 2005 were Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma, which were “devastating” according to the WMO. In that year, only five Greek alphabet names were used, while this year has already reached the 9th letter, Iota.

Hurricane Iota is the 30th storm of the hurricane season as it makes landfall in a vulnerable Central American region already battered by the storm season and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 hurricane season began on July 1 and ends on Nov. 30.

Meteorologists have identified several factors that may explain why there are more hurricanes and tropical storms this year than usual, including reasons like climate change.

Warm sea surface temperatures and low wind shear are some of the main factors, BBC meteorologist Nikki Berry said.

Low wind shear intensifies tropical storms and sea surface temperatures have been “consistently 1-2C above normal through the summer months and these anomalies increased to 2-3C during September,” especially in areas off the coast of Africa, according to BBC.

Hotter water in the Atlantic also means more energy for storms to form.

Global warming has been another primary contributor. In fact, when there’s more warming, air can hold on to “about 7% more water for every degree Celcius it warms up,” which increases moisture, Vox reported.

Also, warming means that storms add more water when making landfall, leading to more destruction.

However, Vox emphasized that despite human climate change, hurricane patterns can naturally change. This may make it difficult for scientists to identify what factors have the greatest impact on hurricane trends.

Some scientists have said the presence and position of the phenomenon El Niño may have made it easier for storms to form, as well as the presence of Madden-Julian Oscillation.

The more storms and hurricanes that form, the more vulnerable some areas become to destruction.

Louisiana was hit with five storms this year, including Hurricane Delta and Hurricane Laura

“I can’t take that hit,” Mayor of Westlake, Los Angeles, Robert Hardey said, when discussing how the storms have cost about $6 million to clean up the town, according to The New York Times.

To help address flooding and destruction by storms, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University, mentioned that communities should build structures to help them adapt better.

“We don’t know where the next [hurricane] is going to go, but I know there is going to be a next one,” Yohe said to The New York Times.

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