From Arthur to Iota, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season came to an end on Nov. 30 after setting a record for the most named storms in a season.
In keeping with tradition, a contingent of Key West residents gathered Nov. 30 to burn the red-and-black hurricane warning flag. Dr. Jack Norris, who has been a critical voice and caretaker amid the city’s COVID pandemic, did the honors by dousing the flag with locally made rum from Key West’s First Legal Rum Distillery.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard were present for the ceremony that took place next to the historic USCGC Ingham museum. The lighthearted Conch Republic Navy also presided over the ritual.
The 30 tropical storms and hurricanes used all 20 names on the World Meteorological Organization’s alphabetical list — from Tropical Storm Arthur in May to Tropical Storm Vicky in September. After that, the storms were named for the letters of the Greek alphabet.
A record-setting 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, made landfall in the United States, with Louisiana suffering five hits.
Despite devastation in the United States, Caribbean and Central America, the relentless storm season largely spared the Florida Keys, where Tropical Storm Eta toppled trees and billboards in the Upper Keys, but left homes and businesses intact. None of the storms prompted evacuations from the island chain.
“One reason this season was so active is La Niña, a weather pattern caused by the interaction of the ocean and atmosphere in the Pacific,” reports NPR. “Michael Mann, an atmospheric scientist at Pennsylvania State University, says another important factor — ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico — set new records this year. Mann says, ‘What we have this year is sort of a perfect storm, no pun intended, of very warm ocean waters and a La Niña pattern that reduces vertical wind shear, creating yet a more favorable environment for these storms to form.’
“Scientists say climate change is making hurricanes stronger, wetter and more damaging. A recent study published in Nature says because they are carrying more moisture, hurricanes are also keeping their strength longer after they make landfall, causing more damage from winds and flooding.”