Like pretty much everything this year, the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season was an abnormality not ever seen before by meteorologists and hurricane specialists.
As the official final day of hurricane season — Nov. 30 — arrives, forecasters have tallied 30 named storms, the most ever recorded; the next closest with 28 systems of tropical storm strength or greater was 2005.
Both 2005 and 2020 have seen the same number of systems form into a tropical depression or greater — 31 — but systems could still form past Nov. 30, like 2005's Tropical Storm Zeta that formed on Dec. 30. The NHC continues to monitor systems year-round, and even today, forecasters give a non-tropical pressure systems in the far eastern Atlantic a 40% chance of spinning up into either a depression or storm in the next two to five days.
In addition to those records, the United States weathered 12 storms that made landfall.
Hurricane experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and at Colorado State University accurately predicted the 2020 season would be a hyperactive year, although both organizations' forecasts were blown out of the water with the season's grand total, 13 of which developed into hurricanes and six of which became major hurricanes, at least Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.
"It's been a doozy of a season," said CSU meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, who referred to himself as the ESPN of hurricane stats. "It was such a crazy active season, but I think what surprised me most was two things. First, that we had four Greek letter storms hit the U.S. I'd be surprised to ever see that record broken. And (second) possibly the most outlandish thing to happen was capping off the season with a Category 5 hurricane, Iota – that's off the wall crazy. But so fitting for a season like this."
Klotzbach's surprise comes from the unlikelihood of a Category 5 hurricane forming in November when vertical wind sheer is increasing and waters are cooling down – the two jet-fuel-like factors needed to see a storm blast off in power.
The 2020 season made no secret to hurricane specialists that it would indeed be special and unlike previous tropical periods.
The tea leaves for a hyperactive season revealed themselves in the form of warmer-than-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures, a stronger west African monsoon, along with much weaker vertical wind shear and wind patterns coming off of Africa.
Signs also pointed to a weak La Nina, which is a ocean-atmosphere cooling phenomenon.