One name is left on the hurricane list, and it's only September. Why so many storms?

By Alex Harris, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

MIAMI - There's only one name left on the National Hurricane Center's alphabetical list of storm names. After Wilfred, it's time for names left untouched since 2005: the Greek alphabet.

And with a good two months left in the formal hurricane season, it's likely that Tropical Storm Alpha might make an appearance somewhere in the Atlantic before the season ends on Nov. 30. Although, as anyone around for the 2005 storm season remembers, the final storm of that season - Tropical Storm Zeta - actually petered out on Jan. 6, 2006.

So far, this hurricane season has already seen 20 named storms, enough to blow through nearly all of the names assigned to 2020. That's still well within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's prediction for a record-breaking season. In August, the agency said it expects up to 25 named storms, more than it has ever predicted in one season. Of those, NOAA predicted up to 11 would be hurricanes and up to six be major hurricanes.

The runner-up in the record books is 2005, when NOAA predicted there would be 21 named storms. That year there were 27 named storms, including six named after Greek letters.

"It looks like we're on pace to give that one a run for its money," said Brian Soden, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

But at this point in 2005, only nine storms had happened, and four of them were major hurricanes. So far this year, only one of the 20 storms was a major hurricane - Laura.


This season has broken records for the breakneck pace of storm naming, but it's also above average in a metric meteorologists consider more important: accumulated cyclone energy. It accounts for intensity and duration of storms, and 2005 had the second most ACE of any hurricane season on record.

It's too soon to tell how 2020 will stack up, as 90% of the year's ACE is usually generated after Aug. 2. So far this season has only generated a little over a fifth of the ACE in 2005.

- Why are there so many storms in 2020?

One factor could be technology. Satellites used to monitor storms have gotten much better, and so have the computers used to run the models that result in those "spaghetti" lines on a map.


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