Only one other year on record (2005) had to transition to the Greek letters for naming storms. The hyperactive 2020 hurricane season is well into the Greek letter alphabet with about two months of potential activity ahead. The National Hurricane Center is watching several tropical systems, including one that could impact the Gulf Coast next week. Here’s why the hurricane season is starting to sound like fraternity or sorority row on a college campus.
Currently, Tropical Storm Gamma (the third letter in the Greek alphabet) is being monitored. According to the National Hurricane Center, Gamma is just offshore of the northern Yucatan Peninsula in the southern Gulf of Mexico and is expected to weaken in the coming days. The Sunday morning forecast discussion from NOAA notes, “Now that Gamma is back out over open water, some slight re-strengthening is expected today. However, strong southerly vertical wind shear is forecast to increase across the cyclone by tonight and especially on Monday, and continue for the next few days.”
Of greater interest to the United States is a tropical wave (Invest 92L) in the central Caribbean Sea southeast of Jamaica. Forecasters gives this system a 70% (80%) chance of further development within 48 hours (5 days). According to the National Hurricane Center, this system “should move west-northwestward at 10 to 15 mph across the central and western Caribbean Sea today through Tuesday, and then move into the southern or southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday night and Wednesday.” If the system is named, it would be Tropical Storm Delta. Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach tweeted, “….Current record for earliest 25th Atlantic named storm is November 15, 2005.” In fact, it is the only other time on record that we’ve had a 25th Atlantic named storm.
Both systems formed in a region that is typical of October storms in the Atlantic basin. In October, storm formation migrates away from the Cape Verde region of the eastern Atlantic to the western Caribbean Sea, western Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico where waters are still very warm and wind shear is conducive, on average, for formation. Though we have surpassed the “peak” of the season, the graphic below illustrates that there is plenty of potential tropical activity ahead of us. There are even tiny peaks in mid and late October.
Besides the aforementioned systems, the National Hurricane Center is also monitoring two potential areas of interest further east in the Atlantic Ocean. They only have a 10% chance of development within the next 2 to 5 days. By the way, if you are curious what happens if a Greek letter named storm is bad enough to be retired, check out this outstanding Forbes piece by my colleague Dennis Mersereau.