Hurricanes are major Atlantic storms. In South Asia they are called cyclones. In East Asia they are called typhoons.
Tropical storms become named hurricanes when sustained winds reach 74 mph or more. Hurricanes cause damage with high winds, heavy rains and storm surge (a wall of water pushed ahead of the storm).
Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. It peaks between late August and September.
Hurricanes can hit New York City directly, but also have a big impact on New Yorkers with a Caribbean heritage.
Caribbean life is designed around hurricanes where they are part of the natural cycle, indigenous cosmology and normal life. Many regions get seriously hit every 10 or 20 years.
The average number of hurricanes in a season is about 12. It’s been as high as 28 and as low as 4.
The Azores or Bermuda-Azores High is a semi-permanent high-pressure system over the central Atlantic. It moves over the Azores in the East Atlantic in summer and over Bermuda in the West Atlantic in winter.
Summer weather (low pressure) rotates around this high pressure system in a clockwise direction.
Warm dry Mediterranean/Sahara air moves south over West Africa where it picks up moisture. From there, trade winds and ocean currents push the storms across the Atlantic towards the Caribbean islands, Florida and the U.S. Atlantic coast.
The strength and position of the high pressure system determines whether storms stay in the Caribbean, hit the South or Florida, or move even further up the coast. The El Niño temperature oscillation in the Pacific also affects the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.
Climate change is increasing the strength and frequency of hurricanes. We are currently in an above-average storm cycle that began in 2016.
Hurricane Sandy made it all the way to New York City in October-November 2012. It did about $70 billion in damage.
Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico in 2017. Two years after a failed FEMA response led by President Trump, over 20,000 people are reported to still be living under blue tarps.
Hurricane Season 2020
This season is expected to be stronger than normal. It is the first season to have three weather systems before the traditional June 1 start date. The first, Tropical Storm Arthur formed on May 16, 2020.
Emergency response is complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and possibly now by the George Floyd protests against police violence on African-Americans. The
2020 Hurricane Names
The season begins with a list of names for tropical storms that become hurricanes.
This year they are: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred.