Skip to main content

Today is the last day of the record-smashing 2020 Atlantic hurricane season

Today is the last day of the record-smashing 2020 Atlantic hurricane season


Thank goodness

Share this story

A woman from the Mayan community of Tecoh wades through the water in a flood caused by Tropical Storm Cristobal in the town of Tecoh near Merida in Yucatan State, Mexico, on June 3rd, 2020.
Photo by Luis Perez / AFP via Getty Images

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season officially ends today, wrapping up a truly exhausting season that smashed records and dealt repeated blows to vulnerable coastal communities. 

“It’s just been crazy,” says Allison Wing an assistant professor of meteorology at Florida State University. “For the forecasters and scientists involved I think everyone is really just a bit tired at this point and kind of ready for it to be over.”

This was the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever documented

This was the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever documented. Thirteen storms strengthened into hurricanes, the second highest number in recorded history. Thirty storms grew strong enough to earn a name, beating 2005’s record of 28 storms. The World Meteorological Organization actually ran out of storm names by September, turning to the Greek alphabet for labels for the first time since 2005. For comparison, an average season only has a dozen named storms. 

Researchers knew this year would be a doozy from the beginning. “All of the things pointed in the direction of having a very active season, and then it came to fruition,” says Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic were warmer than usual, fueling stronger storms. The West African monsoon, a major wind system that can influence storms over the Atlantic, was also stronger this year. There was also weaker vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which is good news for hurricanes since stronger wind shear can tear the storms apart. The season became even busier when a La Nina climate pattern developed in September and weakened the wind shear even more. 

“One of the most notable things about 2020 is just all these storms rapidly intensifying.”

While a busy season was predictable, nine storms this season threw additional curveballs at forecasters when they rapidly intensified as they approached land. “To me, that’s one of the most notable things about 2020 is just all these storms rapidly intensifying up to or almost up to the point of landfall,” says Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.  

Storms that gain power so quickly can be especially dangerous because it gives people less time to prepare for the fierce winds and rising waters. There are only two other years — 1995 and 2010 — with nine rapidly intensifying storms on the books, according to Klotzbach. Unfortunately, rapid intensification appears to be happening more often as global average temperatures continue to rise. 

The fury of these intense storms was not evenly distributed. Some places got hit repeatedly, with barely any room between storms to brace themselves. Eta and Iota devastated Nicaragua and Honduras within two weeks of each other this November. Iota, the strongest hurricane on record to strike Nicaragua, triggered catastrophic flooding and landslides; at least 40 people have died across Central America and Columbia as a result. Louisiana was hard hit, too. Five storms, nearly half of all of the storms that made landfall in the US this year, struck the state. The most devastating was Hurricane Laura, which made landfall with category 4 strength and killed at least 23 people in the state. Iota and Laura pushed tens of thousands more from their homes. 

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was horrible, but by some measures, it still pales in comparison to 2005. While 2020 had more storms, 2005 had stronger storms. Thankfully, no single storm this year matched the pain wrought by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina which killed well over 1,000 people

Forecasters are still at work

Now, the season is formally over, but 2020 isn’t one to stick with formalities. Officially, the season begins on June 1st each year and ends on November 30th. But this year, the first named storm, Arthur, developed in May. That made this the sixth consecutive year that a storm earned its name before June 1st. Normally, the Atlantic’s season follows a curve, with the busiest part of the season in September before gradually tapering off. This year, some of the strongest hurricanes — Eta and Iota — struck unusually late, and they may not be the last storms to form. Just like it disregarded the official start to the season, 2020 may persist past its official end. There’s no guarantee that we won’t see more stragglers through December. 

Forecasters are still at work and are currently keeping an eye on a low-pressure system in the eastern Atlantic, which could become Kappa.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.

External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.