Oct 2, 2020 | By Claire Barber | Illustration by Xixi Qin
The American Southwest looks nothing like the swampy, sandy Florida coast or bayous of Louisiana. Our dry climate, raging wildfires, and 14ers bear little resemblance to the southeast — and it often feels like the campus community at Colorado College seems to glide by without a second thought of the American South or folks in the wider hurricane belt.
I am one of the few students at CC from Florida, and while I tend to give the gun-shaped, “Florida man” land plenty of grief, named storms still tend to grab my attention. They should grab yours, too.
This hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has been especially harsh. Back on May 21, 2020, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center said that there was a “60 percent chance of an above-normal season,” with only a “10 percent chance of a below-normal season.” Their data rang true. This season has seen a mega amount of named storms, 23 thus far.
We have gone through so many named storms this season, the National Hurricane Center resorted to using the Greek alphabet as a naming device. The center uses rotating lists of 21 names that switch every season. After blowing through the designated list of 21 names for this year, storms Alpha and Beta came to fruition, off the coast of Portugal and in the Gulf of Mexico, respectively.
The last time we blew through the traditional naming list was back in 2005: an infamous year which included Hurricane Katrina, a storm that decimated areas of Louisiana and disproportionately impacted communities of color.
If the sheer number of storms and resemblance to one of the worst hurricane seasons in the recent past isn’t enough to jar you, the Walking Dead making an appearance in the meteorology world should.
As reported by CNN , Tropical Storm Paulette made landfall in Bermuda as a category one storm, strengthening to a category two over land on Sept. 14 of this year before petering out … or so we thought. Five-and-a-half days later, Paulette reformed into a tropical storm again. Water temperatures are above average over the bulk of the Atlantic Ocean this season, which aided Paulette in coming back from the dead. If that isn’t enough, rising ocean temperatures (an aspect of climate change) might mean Zombie storms will become a norm.
But if your western state of mind tends to vibe with wildfires more, don’t worry. Smoldering zombie fires, which hold over from season to season in the carbon-rich peat underground of the Arctic until re-igniting when it gets warm again, are also a thing.
What next? Well, the peak of hurricane season passed on Sept. 10, but La Niña may exacerbate conditions over the Caribbean this October. South Florida may bear the brunt of the next storms to the United States, as the region has historically seen the most storms for the country in the later part of hurricane season.
Plus, just as the west is experiencing heat waves and record setting wildfires tied to climate change, the same is true for named storms — climate change equals warmer waters, which equals stronger storms.
I would end with a quip of how “of course this is happening, it’s 2020,” but then again, it’s not just happening because it’s 2020. We all know that. We’ve now unwillingly let zombies come to life and wander among us. One portion of the U.S. is burning, and the other is getting pounded by storms. Climate change is no joke, folks. Stay up to date on your fires, and stay up to date on storms. It’s time to get real about climate change impacts.