The Atlantic’s record-breaking “crazy” hurricane season got a bizarre European remake Friday as forecasters ran out of traditional names and trotted out the Greek alphabet for subtropical storm Alpha. And the geographically misplaced storm promptly sloshed ashore in Portugal.
But wait, there's more. The busy Atlantic is beta testing the Greek alphabet as Beta formed late Friday afternoon.
This is only the second time National Hurricane Center forecasters have had to pull out the Greek alphabet for names, with the last time being 2005. Tropical Storm Wilfred, the last of traditional names, officially formed little more than an hour before Alpha, prompting the hurricane center to tweet “get out the Greek alphabet.”
And they quickly had to use it again, when a tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico became Tropical Storm Beta. That's three storms forming in about six hours.
“It’s crazy,” said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. “This is just off the charts., We’ve made a joke of breaking records.”
Wilfred, Alpha and Beta set records for earliest 21st, 22nd and 23rd named Atlantic storms, beating 2005 by a few weeks.
Alpha is odd in another way. It's misplaced into an area where storms don't generally brew. That’s so unusual that Alpha barely shows up on the hurricane center’s real time storm tracking map, which is focused on the Americas. Only the “Al” of its Greek name shows and it was expected to dissipate in less than a day.
But Alpha fits with the rest of this season in another way. About half of the storms this busy hurricane season have only lasted a few days and have been quite weak, McNoldy said. Vicky for example popped up quickly and soon dissipated without much notice. And with 22 storms only two of them — Laura and Teddy, which is still swirling — reached major hurricane status, which is also kind of unusual, McNoldy said.
McNoldy said the environmental conditions reduce high level winds enough for storms to form, but not enough for them to strengthen or even survive long. La Nina, which is a cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather worldwide, is a factor in making some but not all of the Atlantic more active, he said. It doesn’t explain Alpha forming, he said.
McNoldy does not see a human-caused climate change connection at work in the number of storms.
Just to remind people, the hurricane center tweeted out the entire 24-letter Greek alphabet, with a red slash through Alpha. McNoldy joked that after that there’s no official name list, but the Russian alphabet is available.
With at least another month of the heart of the busiest part of hurricane season to go, one weather-watcher on Twitter talked of “Hurricane Pi on Thanksgiving.”
What hurricane season was like the year you were born
What hurricane season was like the year you were born
1919: The Atlantic-Gulf Hurricane
1920: Louisiana hurricane kills one person
1921: The forgotten nightmare hurricane
1922: An international hurricane season
1923: Four hurricanes hit the U.S.
1924: First Category 5 on record
1925: Latest hurricane to hit the U.S.
1926: A deadly hurricane season
1927: Storms pass the U.S., hit Canada
1928: Second deadliest to hit U.S.
1929: A three-day stationary hurricane
1930: Fifth deadliest Atlantic hurricane
1931: Deadliest hurricane to hit Belize
1932: Category 4 Hurricane strikes Cuba
1933: Second most active hurricane season
1934: Tropical storm kills 3,000 people
1935: Category 5 Labor Day Hurricane
1936: Fifth most active hurricane season
1937: A short hurricane season
1938: Fastest hurricane eye movement
1939: Four hurricanes strike southern California
1940: Wettest hurricane in Louisiana history
1941: Unnamed Hurricane breaches Texas seawall
1942: Multiple hurricanes batter Texas
1943: Surprise Hurricane during World War II
1944: Hurricane sinks World War II ships
1945: Homestead Hurricane destroys blimp hangars
1946: No hurricane deaths in U.S.
1947: Attempts to weaken a hurricane
1948: Two hurricanes hit south Florida
1949: Hurricane damages fruit in Florida
1950: Hurricanes are given names
1951: Hurricane Charlie hits Jamaica
1952: A rare winter tropical storm
1953: Hurricane naming system changes again
1954: Storms wallop New England
1955: Hurricanes Diane and Connie
1956: A mild hurricane season
1957: A destructive June hurricane
1958: No hurricanes until August
1959: Hurricane Gracie evacuation saves lives
1960: Hurricane Donna reaches far
1961: Hurricane Carla forces evacuation
1962: A quiet year for hurricanes
1963: Hurricane Flora strikes Haiti
1964: Four hurricanes hit U.S. mainland
1965: Official hurricane season is established
1966: Alma and Inez break records
1968: Hurricane Gladys ends a drought
1969: Hurricane Camille devastates the U.S.
1970: Hurricane Celia has destructive winds
1971: Hurricane Ginger sets long-lasting record
1973: One of the least damaging seasons
1974: Hurricane Fifi strikes Honduras
1975: Hurricane Eloise destroys Alabama crops
1976: Hurricane Belle destroys Northeast crops
1977: Anita brings a late start
1978: All-female storm names end
1979: Three tropical storms smash records
1980: Allen prompts oil rig evacuations
1981: Five hurricanes in September
1982: Least active season since 1931
1983: Alicia ends hurricane drought
1984: Hurricane Diana hits eastern U.S.
1985: Worst season in 69 years
1986: Strongest hurricane doesn't make landfall
1987: Hurricane Emily breaks Caribbean silence
1988: Most destructive in Jamaican history
1989: Hurricane Hugo wipes out bananas
1990: Gustav stays in the water
1991: Storms form in Bermuda hotspot
1992: Hurricane Andrew destroys weather instruments
1993: Hurricane Emily evacuations save lives
1994: A dry September and October
1995: A busy, costly hurricane season
1996: Record-breaking hurricane numbers
1997: El Nino causes inactive season
1998: Hurricane Mitch triggers extreme floods
1999: Many Category 4 hurricanes
2000: Hurricane Alberto lasts many days
2001: Costliest and deadliest tropical storm
2002: El Nino causes few hurricanes
2003: Hurricane Isabel hits Chesapeake Bay
2004: Hurricane Jeanne causes Haiti mudslides
2005: Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans
2006: The calm following the storm
2007: Two Category 5 hurricane landfalls
2008: Hurricane Ike disrupts Montreal's subways
2009: Write a 3-5 word description of any key event or notable facts
2010: Third most active hurricane season
2011: Major hurricane drought in the U.S.
2012: Hurricane Sandy slams East Coast
2013: A quiet hurricane season
2014: Arthur hits North Carolina early
2015: Ana reveals wrecked schooner
2016: A rare January hurricane
2017: Three costly hurricanes
2018: Hurricane Michael hits Florida Panhandle
2019: Fourth year of frequent hurricanes
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