November 30, 2020
Theta sets Atlantic hurricane season record as 29th named storm

Theta sets Atlantic hurricane season record as 29th named storm


Subtropical storm Theta as seen by the GOES-East satellite.


NOAA/NESDIS/STAR

This has been an Atlantic hurricane season unlike any other. First, we ran out of regular tropical storm names. Then, we started digging into the Greek alphabet. Now, we’re far enough in to reach Theta, which set a new record as the 29th named storm of the season. 

The National Hurricane Center announced Theta as a subtropical storm on Monday. It’s in the Northeast Atlantic over open water.

Theta follows on the heels of Eta, which reached hurricane status but is currently lingering in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm. Hurricanes require certain sustained wind speeds to earn the name. Storms can be upgraded or downgraded based on new weather data.

We don’t have to wind the clock back too far to find which the year 2020 is beating out. In 2005, there were 27 named storms during the season, which typically runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

What makes the 2005 season tricky for the record books is that the National Hurricane Center identified an extra subtropical storm during a re-analysis after the season. If it had been classified properly during the season, it would have earned a name and pushed the number of named storms to 28

With that in mind, 2020 is now the undisputed champion of storms, and the National Hurricane Center views this as the single-season record. 

It has been a brutal season, with multiple strong hurricanes and storms striking land. This year may not be an aberration. Signs are pointing to stronger and wetter hurricanes. Scientists are studying the role climate change might play in this trend.

There’s still time for the Atlantic Ocean to pad its new record. We could easily reach “iota” or “kappa” (or beyond) in the Greek alphabet before it’s all over. 





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