Another storm has officially formed in the Atlantic Ocean as of Monday. Tropical Storm Epsilon is not currently forecast to threaten land, although the National Hurricane Center is advising folks in Bermuda to monitor the system.
But Epsilon jumps off the page to anyone who knows Atlantic hurricanes, simply by virtue of its name and today’s date.
The storm is the 26th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, so named for the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet because the pre-determined list of storm names was exhausted five storms back. The convention is to revert to Greek letters after those names are all used up.
What’s truly astounding, though, is that Tropical Storm Epsilon was officially designated on October 19, 2020, more than a month earlier than when the 26th storm formed during the record-breaking 2005 season.
You may recall that 2005 gave us hurricanes Rita, Katrina and Wilma, among others, leaving unprecedented devastation in Louisiana, as well as other parts of the Gulf Coast, Florida, Mexico and Cuba.
That 2005 season remains the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, with 27 storms given names by the National Hurricane Center.
Today, the NHC has just named its 26th storm and there is still over a month left until the conventional end of the season on November 30. It now feels inevitable that we will soon tie that mark when another storm emerges to earn the name Zeta and is then followed by Eta to set a new record, perhaps ushering in a new era of hyperactive storm activity in the Atlantic.
The trend also holds across the world, where the total tropical storm count is also at near record levels.
2020 has already been a year for the history books in so many ways. It appears the tropics want to make sure they get a mention as well.
Hopefully this year in the Atlantic goes down as an anomaly. Unfortunately, though, the data and climate scientists suggest that instead, what we’re observing right now may actually be another instance of that overused and dreaded phrase: “a new normal.”