The 2020 hurricane season was a seasons of a higher than normal amount of storms. The 2020 season also continued to trend of hurricanes with rapid intensification. For example, Hurricane Eta’s wind speeds rapidly increased over the course of an hour around 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour.
What Was the First and Last Named Storm of 2020?
This year, the first named storm, Arthur, was announced on May 17, 2020. The last named hurricane of the season formed on November 13, 2020 and was named Hurricane Iota.
How Many Named Storms Were There in the 2020 Hurricane Season?
Overall there were 30 named storms during the 2020 hurricane season. Per NASA, the 2020 hurricane season was also notable for: “the most storms to make landfall in the continental United States (12); the most to hit Louisiana (5); and the most storms to form in September (10)”.
The 2020 hurricane season was the fifth year in a row with above-average hurricane activity.
How are Hurricanes Named?
Storms during a hurricane seasons are named in alphabetical order as they develop. The names alternate between male and female names starting with the letter A. Letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used.
When a hurricane’s name is retired such as Katrina, that name is permanently removed from rotation and a new name starting with the same letter is added to the list. Hurricane season begins on June 1 in the Atlantic Ocean and continues through to November 30.
Primary 2020 List of Hurricane Names
Each year, the World Meteorological Organization creates a list of official names for major storms in the both Northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans. There are six lists of names that have been developed which are rotated into use. Names are only removed from the list when the storm becomes strong enough to create substantial damage as a hurricane.
What Happened When We Ran Out of Hurricane Names in 2020?
When the number of named storms in the Atlantic Basins exceeded 21, then the naming conventions moved to the Greek alphabet. The list of storms that occurred after Wilfred were pulled from the list of the Greek alphabet in alphabetical order: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota,Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron, Pi, Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Chi, Psi, and Omega.
For the 2020 Hurricane season, the primary list of 2020 hurricane names was exhausted and nine Greek letters were used to name storms: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota.
Which Hurricanes Were Retired from the 2020 Hurricane Season?
A recently meeting of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) retired three tropical storm names from the rotating list of names: Laura, Eta and Iota (2020).
From the WMO press release:
2020 – Laura
Laura was a powerful category 4 hurricane (on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) that made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, accompanied by a devastating storm surge of at least 5 meters (17 feet) above ground level. It was responsible for 47 direct deaths in the United States and Hispaniola, and more than $19 billion in damage.
Leah will replace Laura on the list of names in 2026.
2020 – Eta & Iota
Hurricanes Eta and Iota both made landfall less than two weeks apart during November 2020 in the same area of the Nicaraguan coast just south of Puerto Cabezas. The two powerful tropical cyclones caused extensive flooding in Nicaragua, Honduras and other adjacent Central American countries, resulting in at least 272 fatalities and damage losses of more than $9 billion.
World Meteorological Organization Ends the Use of Greek Alphabet for Naming Storms
The WMO also made the decision to end the use of Greek alphabet to name storms in hurricane seasons that exceed 21 storms. The decision to end the use of Greek letters was made because it “creates a distraction from the communication of hazard and storm warnings and is potentially confusing.”
Instead the Hurricane Committee will create a supplemental list of names A-Z (excluding Q, U, as well as X, Y, and Z on the Atlantic list) that will be used if the number of storms exceeds the list of available names on the primary list.
Patel, K. (2020, December 9). A destructive abundance. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147643/a-destructive-abundance
WMO Hurricane committee retires tropical cyclone names and ends the use of Greek alphabet. (2021, March 17). World Meteorological Organization. https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/wmo-hurricane-committee-retires-tropical-cyclone-names-and-ends-use-of-greek