2020’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Is Now Using Greek Alphabet For Only the Second Time


The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season used up its entire names list and has begun using the Greek alphabet for the rest of the season’s named storms for only the second time ever.

Friday morning, Tropical Storm Wilfred formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Just a few hours later the National Hurricane Center initiated advisories on Subtropical Storm Alpha, a compact low-pressure system that later moved into Portugal.

If that wasn’t enough, later Friday afternoon, Tropical Depression Twenty-Two in the Gulf of Mexico was upgraded to Tropical Storm Beta.

So, in the span of six hours Friday, we not only used up the last name in the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season names list, but we also rolled through the first two letters from the Greek alphabet, which is used for storm names once the season’s list of names has been exhausted.

According to Tomer Burg, a PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma, since 1933 there had never before been 3 new storms that had formed within a 24-hour period in the Atlantic Basin, much less Friday’s six-hour period.

As you might imagine, this flurry of activity Friday spurred the sense of humor of meteorologists.

The only other time the Greek alphabet had to be used was during the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season.

The National Hurricane Center's big board showing the list of Atlantic named storms as of late 2005. (AP)
The National Hurricane Center’s big board showing the list of Atlantic named storms as of late 2005.


Incredibly, this season’s first two Greek storms developed more than a month earlier than the 2005 season. Tropical Storm Alpha developed on Oct. 22, 2005 and Hurricane Beta first became a tropical storm on Oct. 27, 2005.

The 2005 hurricane season used six Greek alphabet names. The last storm of that season, Zeta, didn’t fizzle out until early January 2006.

Two of those 2005 Greek storms – Beta and Epsilon – became hurricanes. Hurricane Beta, a Category 2 storm, hammered Nicaragua the day before Halloween.

Tracks and dates of 2005’s Greek named storms

(Data: NHC)

How Many More?

How deep could we go into the Greek alphabet in 2020?

After Sept. 18, an average hurricane season typically delivers 5 to 6 named storms, 3 to 4 of which become hurricanes, and 1 to 2 of which become major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricanes.

Therefore, an average season would take us through Eta or Theta in the Greek alphabet list before the end of this season, either tying or breaking the record number of storms from the 2005 hurricane season (28 storms, one of which was unnamed and added after post-season analysis by the National Hurricane Center).

But that’s only if the rest of this season is average. What if the rest of the season is like 2005?

After Sept. 18, 2005, following the formation of Hurricane Rita, another 11 storms formed the rest of that season.

The number of storms, hurricanes and Category 3 or stronger hurricanes after Sept. 18 in an average year (in blue) and after Sept. 18 in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

(Data: Phil Klotzbach, NHC; Graph: Infogram)

If that happens in 2020, that would take us through the Greek letter Nu, more than halfway through the Greek alphabet. That’s an incredible 34 storms in one season.

So brush up on your Greek alphabet. You’ll need it the rest of this frenetic hurricane season.


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