In a year that keeps on giving us “Wow” moments, I awoke to a National Hurricane Center Tropical Weather Outlook that made me say “Wow.” As of 6:23 am on September 14th, NOAA’s tropical experts are monitoring six tropical systems in the Atlantic Basin, and five of them have names. Here is the latest on the latest record to be tied or broken during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, and there will be more unfortunately.
For only the second time on record, the Atlantic basin has five or more tropical cyclones (defined as a tropical depression, tropical storm, or hurricane) simultaneously. The U.S. Gulf coast is facing Tropical Storm (likely to become Hurricane) Sally, which is expected to slow down before landfall and be a major flood threat. Hurricane Paulette is basically sitting over Bermuda right now. Rene has weakened to a tropical depression while Teddy strengthened a tropical storm. The latest tropical depression (TD21) has formed west of the African continent. According to Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach, the other time we saw this many tropical cyclones at the same time was 1971. Klotzbach tweeted, “On September 11-12, 1971, the Atlantic had 6 tropical depression or greater storms simultaneously: Edith, Fern, Ginger, Unnamed, Heidi and Irene.”
It is not necessarily surprising that the dates are rather similar. If you look at the climatology of tropical cyclone activity (above), we are currently near the “statistical peak” in the distribution. Interestingly, the other thing that blows my mind is that we are already at the “T” storm, and it’s only mid-September. As a reference, the table below illustrations the typical timing of storms in the Atlantic basin. With Teddy, the earliest named “T” storm on record, we are already at the 19th named storm of the season. There are only two names left on the 2020 list (Vicky and Wilfred) with much of the season still in front of us. If (and likely when) the name list is exhausted, the Greek alphabet will be used.
From the table, it is clear that we typically have six to seven named storms by this time of year and three hurricanes. We are well ahead of those numbers. Paulette recently became the sixth hurricane of the season. According to Klotzbach, the entire season normally has six storms (not at halftime). Later today, I fully expect Sally to be upgraded to a hurricane also. Here are what some of the best hurricane experts in the world are saying on Twitter about the latest “wow” moment in the Atlantic hurricane season:
“Three Tropical Storms, Two Tropical Depressions, and a year that will go down in the record tree.” – Dr Michael Ventrice, IBM/The Weather Company
“I cry uncle. 2020 please stop! Storms everywhere.” Eric Blake, National Hurricane Center
“There we go… why not have FIVE simultaneous active tropical cyclones, including two hurricane landfalls in a day? #Paulette #Rene #Sally #Teddy #TD21” – Brian McNoldy, University of Miami
By the way, if you wondering what the record is for simultaneous hurricanes, check out the graphic below.