2020 shattered another record when subtropical storm Theta, the 29th named storm this season, developed overnight in the Northeast Atlantic. There has never been an Atlantic hurricane season on record with more storms strong enough to earn a name.
The World Meteorological Organization burned through its regular list of storm names nearly two months ago and had to resort to using Greek letters to label storms this year for only the second time in its history. This is the first time Theta has ever been used as a storm name.
The last time the WMO resorted to Greek letters was in 2005, which held the previous record for the most named storms in a single season. That year will still be known for one of the most devastating storms in American memory, Hurricane Katrina. Katrina and four other names were retired that year, which happens when a storm is so deadly or costly that the WMO deems it inappropriate to reuse the moniker.
Theta is expected to stay over the eastern Atlantic and away from land for the next several days, the National Hurricane Center reported this morning. That’s a relief, since communities from Nicaragua to South Florida are still recovering from Hurricane Eta’s recent destruction. Eta could still cause more flooding in Cuba and Florida today, the National Hurricane Center warned.
Eta was the record-shattering 12th storm to make landfall in the US in a single season. The previous record was set in 1916 when 9 storms came ashore. This year has also seen a record-tying number of billion-dollar climate and weather-related disasters. Hurricanes Laura, Sally, and Isaias make up 3 of the sixteen costly events this year.
The World Meteorological Agency holds an annual meeting after each season ends on November 30th, where it decides whether to retire any more storm names.