2020 Atlantic hurricane season exceeds predictions


Geral Herbert

Satellite image of Hurricane Laura as it approaches Texas and Louisiana coasts.

Aivry Zamora, Assistant Editor

With 23 storms reported this year and more to come, the 2020 hurricane season has already proven to be a record breaking year in meteorology. This year has endured nearly double the typical amount of storms in a hurricane season with forecasters already resorting to the Greek alphabet to name future hurricanes. Not only the frequency of these storms but the location in which they are forming has concerned scientists studying hurricane behavior. An average hurricane or tropical storm develops from disturbances that blow off of the west coast of Africa, but this season six storms have formed or strengthened in the coastal region between Florida and the Carolinas.

“Frontal origins of tropical cyclones are not that unusual, but four times so far this season is unusually often,” Ryan Truchelut, Chief Meteorologist at WeatherTiger, said.

The frequency and severity of these storms is largely due to the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that have heated oceans to 32 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years.

While many of these storms did not make landfall, those that did were highly powerful and destructive. Hurricane Laura, a category four storm that hit the coast of Louisiana, was anticipated with great worry. Reporters called its winds “unsurvivable” and that the storm surge would render some areas “uninhabitable for an extended period.” Due to the uncertainty that surrounded Laura, many residents of Louisiana, southeastern Texas and the Lake Charles area evacuated their homes in fear of the destruction that Hurricane Laura was expected to bring. Despite having prepared for the worst, only southern Louisiana was severely effected, leading many to question the National Weather Service’s prediction.

“It will look worse than what the actual storm surge will be, and that’s intentional. We don’t know what’s going to happen hours before landfall. [In this case-sic], it shifted north into a different place than what we had forecasted, but it was still in the forecast error,” John Brazzell, a Hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, said.

Though many were spared from the destruction of the hurricane, coastal Louisiana was hit with 17.2 foot waters and record breaking winds that decimated buildings and left many without a home. Residents of the affected area who did not evacuate have expressed that they will never again stay home during a hurricane.

“Something that you experience one time and don’t do it again,” Kim Eagleson, a Grand Lake Resident, said.

With intense wind, rain and flooding, Hurricane Laura marks the worst storm that the 2020 hurricane season has faced recently, Tropical Cyclone Beta became the ninth named storm to directly hit the United States mainland. This phenomenon has only occurred once before in 1916 on the North Carolina border. Becoming the second storm this year to have been named in relation to the Greek alphabet, Tropical Storm Beta brought heavy rainfall and mild flooding to the Texas coast.

“Earlier this season we were asked if we would start using Greek letters for storms, and I told them it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ but “when” and “how deep into the Greek alphabet we go,” Dennis Feltgen, Spokesman and Meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said.

From a meteorological standpoint, 2020 has been ripe with unusual activity such as the annual migration of African dust over the Atlantic earlier in the summer, which was noted as one of the largest dust clouds in decades.With tropical storm production in high gear, every storm including and after Tropical Storm Eduardo in 2020, has set a record and are now having set 16 named storm records and even more are set to fall.