As we all know, 2020 has been horrible with the pandemic. It’s also been horrible in the weather arena as well. The 2020 season began early when Arthur formed on May 16. The extremely active season quickly went through the pre-determined list of 21 names, ending with Wilfred on September 18. Then for only the second time in history, the Greek alphabet was used for the remainder of the season, with Alpha forming the same day. We had a total of 30 named storms for 2020, which breaks the record for the highest number of tropical/subtropical storms in a single year. The previous record of 28 storms was set in 2005. Official records date to 1851.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially ended on November 30, but additional storms could develop this month. Our team of meteorologists, along with forecasters at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center continuously monitor the tropics for storm development and activity. This time of year, we need to remain vigilant because storms tend to form more in the Gulf of Mexico.
If you are asking why this year has been so active, you are asking a good question. There are several factors. The Atlantic Ocean has naturally been in a warmer phase since around 1995, something called the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation. This added warmth creates more ideal conditions for hurricanes to form. We’ve also had La Nina, (ocean cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean) which brought to a halt the strong east-driving winds blowing through the Caribbean. These winds pummel hurricanes with “wind shear.” It shears or tears apart storms or does not allow them to form. This year, they had no obstacles. We also had a strong West African monsoon season. Most powerful Atlantic hurricanes are seeded by unstable air and thunderstorms traveling west from Africa. More clouds and storm activity in West Africa are linked to favorable conditions for hurricanes.
You may have also noted that November was very warm! Indeed, it was and because of the same La Nina that gave us the active hurricane season. La Nina is not finished yet. The ocean cooling off South American changes atmospheric conditions in such a way what we will likely have a very warm and a very dry winter. I am not saying it’s not going to rain and be in the 80s every day. We will have cold periods and maybe even a shot at snow but overall, winter 2020-2021 will be warmer and drier than usual.
I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas and I can’t wait until 2021!