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Relentless and record-breaking: Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Atlantic Hurricane season comes to a close officially Monday, November 30th. It's a season that will surely go down in the history books as one of the most active on record.

A busy prediction comes true:

Every spring, before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1st, predictions are made to try to determine how many storms will form. The potential for this season to be devastating was there, with a number of ingredients lining up to create a perfect environment for tropical systems.

In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a grim forecast: 13 to 19 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes.

By the end of July, nine storms had gained a name, becoming the earliest to see that milestone in over 150 years of recorded observations. Before the end of September, the 21-name Atlantic list would be exhausted with Wilfred. At this point in the season, it was clear that the Greek alphabet would need to be used for only the second time in history.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season ramped up quickly and broke records across the board.

Neil Jacobs, Ph.D, acting NOAA administrator

As of November 30th, the last official day of the Atlantic hurricane season, 30 named storms have formed. Thirteen hurricanes developed, with winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Of those 13 hurricanes, six earned notoriety for being major hurricanes with winds of over 110 miles per hour.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was exceptionally active.

Breaking it down by the numbers:

September is the month with the most tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin. During the month of September, ten named storms formed in the abundantly warm waters of the Atlantic. To put the numbers in perspective, this equates to one named storm every three days.

A breakdown of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season by the numbers.

Of the 13 hurricanes that formed, ten underwent a process called rapid intensification, a record-breaking number. Previous storms that have been linked to rapid intensification include Dorian (2019), Michael (2018), and Harvey (2017). Rapid intensification of hurricanes has been directly linked to increasing global temperatures, and continues to have devastating impacts on coastal and inland communities.

This season brought a record-shattering number of U.S. landfalls. Twelve systems made landfall in the U.S., breaking the previous record of nine set back in 1916. Of the 12 landfalling systems, five made landfall in Louisiana.

What caused the active season?:

Several ingredients came together to produce an active season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), weak wind shear and a bustling monsoon season in West Africa allowed for the active season.

Another contributing factor is the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO), which began in 1995. This warm phase typically lasts anywhere from 25 to 40 years and can lead to longer lasting and stronger storms.

Justin Ballard

Justin Ballard joined 13 WREX as the weekday morning meteorologist. He’s a proud graduate of UNC-Charlotte and happy to call Rockford home.

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