The Record-Breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

WSAV Hurricane Central

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – While most people have been counting down until the holidays, you will find that most, if not ALL, meteorologists are counting down to the real holiday: Hurricane Season being over!! We have finally made it out of a chaotic and beyond record-setting season.

Once upon a time, before 30 names storms and one unnamed tropical depression, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their preseason prediction. They expected we would see an extremely active season. And boy, did we have one!

On average we see 12 named storms per season. We surpassed that number by mid-August.


This hurricane season has 100% lived up to the “that is so 2020” expression AND expectation. This season is now the most active hurricane season on record with a total of 30 named storms. It surpassed the old record of 28 named storms set in 2005. It’s also the 5th consecutive year with an above average season, first starting in 2016.

Even before hurricane season began on June 1st, the season was off to a rocket start.

Before the season began…

When Tropical Storm Arthur formed on May 16, this season became the 6th season in a row to have a storm form before the official start of hurricane season (June 1st).

With Tropical Storm Bertha forming on the heels of Arthur on May 27, it became the 1st time since the 2016 season to have 2 pre-season storms form. It was also the 1st time since 2012 to have two names storms in the month of May.

And so it begins

Right out the gates on June 1st, Tropical Storm Depression 3 formed. By the 2nd day of Hurricane Season, Tropical Storm Cristobal had formed. This storm became the first out of a record setting 27 earliest forming storm names in respect to their alphabetic letter. This season was the 2nd time, since record keeping began in 1851, to use the Greek Alphabet. The first time was in 2005. Our season used to the last predetermined name, Wilfred, on September 18 and began using the Greek Alphabet with Alpha forming in the same day.

Storm NameFormation
Old Record
Old Record
Forming Date
CristobalJune 2ColinJune 5, 2016
EdouardJuly 6EmilyJuly 11, 2005
FayJuly 9FranklinJuly 21, 2005
GonzaloJuly 22GertJuly 24, 2005
HannaJuly 24HarveyAug 3, 2005
IsaiasJuly 30IreneAug 7, 2005
JosephineAugust 13JoseAug 22, 2005
KyleAugust 14KatrinaAug 24, 2005
LauraAugust 21LuisAug 29, 2005
MarcoAugust 22MariaSept 2, 2005
NanaSeptember 1NateSept 5, 2005
OmarSeptember 1OpheliaSept 7, 2005
PauletteSeptember 7PhillippeSept 17, 2005
ReneSeptember 7RitaSept 18, 2005
SallySeptember 12StanOct 2, 2005
TeddySeptember 14TammyOct 5, 2005
VickySeptember 14VinceOct 9, 2005
WilfredSeptember 18WilmaOct 17, 2005
AlphaSeptember 18AlphaOct 22, 2005
BetaSeptember 18BetaOct 27, 2005
GammaOctober 2GammaNov 15, 2005
DeltaOctober 5DeltaNov 22, 2005
EpsilonOctober 19EpsilonNov 29, 2005
ZetaOctober 25ZetaDec 30, 2005
EtaNovember 1First EverTo Form
ThetaNovember 10First EverTo Form
IotaNovember 13First EverTo Form
Yes..a lot of new name records…27 to be exact.

Storm Names

The first 2 months of the season were filled with tropical storms. In fact, our first hurricane, Category 1 Hurricane Hanna, didn’t form until very late July. By the time the peak of Hurricane season had arrived on September 10, we were over 80% done with the pre-determined set of names (Rene formed on the 7th). While we only had two hurricanes form in late July, this July tied the 2005 July as the most active July on record with 5 named tropical systems.

Once the peak of hurricane season hit, storms fired up and formed.

Record Breaking September

September 2020 broke the record for most September storms forming on record with 10 total (Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred, Alpha, & Beta). The old record was 5 set in 2002, 2007, and 2010.

If you looked up what the Peak of Hurricane Season looked like in the dictionary, you would see a picture of the all the active storms of September 14 with 5 total storms. We had Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, and Vicky. This tied the same record set in September of 1971.

This season tied another record of most storms forming in a single day. Wilfred, Alpha, and Beta all formed on September 18, within 6 hours of each other. The tied record was set on August 15, 1893.

18 straight days of tropical activity ended when Beta dissipated on September 23.

Mainland Landfalls

12 named cyclones made landfall along the U.S coast with total of 13 landfalls (Eta made landfall twice). This surpassed the old record of 9 set in 1916.

5 of those 12 storms made landfall in Louisiana.

1st State to have 5 Landfalls in 1 Season: Louisiana

Cristobal not only broke our first earliest forming ‘C’ name record, but it became the first out of 5 storms to make landfall in Louisiana. Tropical Storm Marco was next, followed immediately by CAT 4 Laura, and then CAT 2 Delta and CAT 2 Zeta in October. Having 5 Louisiana landfalls broke the previous record of 4 landfalls in 2002.

Rapid Intensification

10 storms this season rapidly intensified. Rapid intensification is where max winds increase 35 mph within 24 hours. The 10 storm record ties the previous record from the 1995 season.

The first to rapidly intensify was Hurricane Hanna on July 25 before making landfall in southeastern Texas. The last was Major Hurricane Iota. The storm rapidly intensified into a category 5 hurricane with winds of 160 mph on November 16. The others were Laura, Sally, Teddy, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta.

There was also 4 systems that rapidly deepened. Rapid deepening is where a systems pressure drops 40 millibars in 24 hours. The fastest to do this in this season was Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota.

November’s CATEGORY 5

July and September weren’t the only record breaking months. For the 5th consecutive year, a category 5 hurricane had formed.

  • 2016: Matthew (October 1)
  • 2017: Irma (September 5) & Maria (September 18)
  • 2018: Michael (October 10)
  • 2019: Dorian (September 1) & Lorenzo (September 29)
  • 2020: Iota (November 16)

Major Hurricane Iota also was the latest forming category 5 hurricane and only the 2nd category 5 to form in the month of November in recorded history. The 1st was Hurricane Camaguey, also known as the 1932 Cuba Hurricane. It reached category 5 strength on November 6, 1932.

This also was the only season with 2 major hurricanes in November: Eta and Iota.

3 Dual Landfalls in 1 Season

Within this chaotic season, we had 3 pairs of storms make landfall less than 50 miles of each other.

  • Category 4 Hurricane Laura & Category 2 Hurricane Delta
    • Landfall within ~13 miles in Louisiana
  • Category 4 Hurricane Eta & Category 5 Hurricane Iota
    • Landfall within ~15 miles in Nicaragua
  • Category 2 Hurricane Delta & Category 1 Hurricane Zeta
    • Landfall within ~40 miles in Cozumel, Mexico

After 6 major hurricanes, 7 hurricanes, and 17 tropical storms, meteorologist will enjoy the quiet months in between hurricane seasons. Now we begin the countdown until our next season begins.

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