Hurricane season continues with another Category 3 storm in the Atlantic

PITTSBURGH — Hurricane Epsilon is a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. It’s the fourth major hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season. The storm is in the Atlantic and will be no threat to the U.S. mainland as it passes east of Bermuda.

Epsilon marks the 26th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and the fifth name on the Greek alphabet.

Hurricane Delta made landfall near Puerto Morelos, Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 mph. It reached Category 4 strength before weakening shortly before landfall in Mexico.

Gamma came before Delta and hit Akuman, Mexico as a strong tropical storm.

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The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has been so active that storms are now being named by the Greek alphabet. The last and only other time this has ever happened was in 2005. That season, which included Hurricane Katrina, was so busy that the first six letters of the Greek alphabet had to be used.

The World Meteorological Organization names tropical cyclones and uses 21 of the 26 letters in the alphabet, in alphabetical order. The letters that are excluded are Q, U, X, Y and Z.

Once 21 named storms form in an Atlantic hurricane season, the Greek alphabet is used. The season is already on named storm number 23.

So far this year, there have been 10 landfalling hurricanes to hit the U.S. -- Bertha, Cristobal, Fay, Hanna, Isaias, Marco, Laura, Sally, Beta and Delta. Five of those were hurricanes.

Colorado State University, along with NOAA, releases hurricane forecasts each year for the Atlantic Basin. The university releases their forecasts in the spring and makes frequent updates throughout the year.

Their first prediction, released in April 2020, called for 16 named storms, eight of which becoming hurricanes and four major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). The average number of named storms in a season is 12, of which six become hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Colorado State University made updates to its forecast in June and July with its most recent update on Aug. 5. The university is now forecasting 24 named storms (including the nine that have already happened), 12 hurricanes (including two that have already happened), and 5 major hurricanes.

Colorado State University cites extremely warm tropical Atlantic waters, a very active West African monsoon, weak wind shear in the development zone, and low odds of a developing El Niño as reasons for their upgraded forecast.

NOAA updated its 2020 Atlantic hurricane forecast in August, calling for 19 to 25 named storms and 7 to 11 of which becoming hurricanes. It called for 3 to 6 major hurricanes.