TUCSON, Ariz. — As if 2020 hasn’t been memorable enough, the tropics certainly gave us plenty of storms to cover. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season was relatively quiet. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was anything but quiet and produced a record 30 named storms. The old record was 28 named storms in a single season which occurred in 2005.
Here’s some other highlights courtesy of the National Hurricane Center:
1. Of the 30 named storms, 13 became hurricanes and 6 became major hurricanes. A major hurricane is defined as a Category 3 (sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or higher) or stronger.
2. 12 storms made landfall over the United States Mainland… 5 of which hit Louisiana
3. Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on August 27th. The hurricane struck with 150 mph sustained wind, took the lives of 42 people and caused $14 billion worth of damage in the United States.
Several factors contributed to a busy Atlantic hurricane season.
1. Sea surface temperatures were warmer than average all the way across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean. Warm water is the fuel for tropical storms.
2. Unlike the Southwest monsoon, the West African monsoon was quite strong and provided thunderstorm and wind energy to help tropical storms form.
3. The wind from the surface into the lower levels of the atmosphere were favorable. There wasn’t much wind shear (wind blowing in opposite directions at different altitudes) which meant storms could stay organized and not get ripped apart by strong wind shear.
The Eastern Pacific hurricane season was not nearly as active as the Atlantic season. Most forecasts called for below-average activity across the Pacific and that’s exactly what happened. Below and slightly below sea surface temperatures were a big contributor to the lack of tropical activity from the Eastern Pacific into the Central Pacific. El Nino and La Nina were in a neutral state and storms just didn’t have the fuel necessary to form and sustain themselves.
December has arrived and the official hurricane seasons have come to an end. This doesn’t mean that a tropical storm couldn’t form during the winter months. In fact, since 1851, 17 named storms have formed in the month of December in the Atlantic basin. It is 2020, so we shouldn’t be surprised by much of anything. The weather has certainly given us plenty to discuss and will likely keep us entertained right to the end!