11 November 2020

Eta a hurricane again, Theta forms, Iota on the horizon

No, it's not September 11, it's November 11 and we are watching a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, a tropical storm out by the Azores, and a potent tropical wave in the Caribbean.  This is not normal.

First, after a stall by the western tip of Cuba, Eta began moving north and has regained hurricane intensity just west of Fort Myers, FL.  It is forecast to start a turn toward the northeast which will bring in to landfall north of Tampa, FL on Thursday.  Although it's been ingesting huge amounts of dry air into its circulation from the west, the low wind shear and warm water below it are enough to not just keep it going, but to allow it to intensify!

As such, hurricane watches are in effect for a portion of western Florida, along with storm surge warnings (check https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/graphics_at4.shtml?start#contents for the latest). Tampa Bay could see at least a 3-5-foot storm surge from this when it makes landfall on Thursday and the area could see up to a half foot of rain. If we rewind back to the beginning, the storm that is now Eta left the African coast as a tropical wave back on October 24th!! What a long strange trip it's been.

The strong low pressure system that was located southwest of the Azores was upgraded to Subtropical Storm Theta on Monday night, making it the season's record-breaking 29th named storm. It has since transitioned to a tropical cyclone and is forecast to slide between the Azores and the Canary Islands this weekend as a tropical storm.

And the wave in the Caribbean is still a feature of great interest -- NHC is giving it an 80% probability of developing into a tropical cyclone by the end of the weekend. This is quite unusual to be watching a vigorous tropical wave in the Caribbean in NOVEMBER. Unfortunately, it's on a trajectory that would take it near where Category 4 Hurricane Eta just made landfall a week ago.

If this does in fact develop and become a tropical storm, it would be named Iota and would be the season's 30th named storm.  If it becomes a hurricane, it would be the season's 13th hurricane. Only one other season in known history had 13+ hurricanes, and that was 2005 (it had 15).


  1. Your blogs are always fascinating to read, and greatly appreciated. Keep 'em coming!

  2. Hi Brian

    First of all, thanks a lot for all the posts this year, 2020 definitely gave you some extra work:).

    One question regarding Theta: obviously the forecast track has the storm heading East, whereas "usual" forecasts have rather the systems heading towards the West. Is there an explanation for this for Theta?

    Thanks a lot!

  3. Good question! Theta is pretty far north in the mid-latitudes. Storms generally move toward the west in the tropics and toward the east in the mid-latitudes. Somewhere in between in where they tend to "recurve".