A Hurricane Hunter Aircraft penetrated the upper level eye of Hurricane Epsilon revealing blue skies above and the surrounding wall of clouds. The radar overlay (lower left) shows the aircraft entering the eye and the surrounding clouds. NOAA Image.

Epsilon the Fourth Major Hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Hurricane Epsilon is the 27th tropical cyclone and 26th named storm of the record breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. After the end of the 2019 season, The Tropical Meteorology Department at Colorado State University issued an outlook for the 2020 hurricane season that included 12 or more named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2-3 major hurricanes. Epsilon is the tenth hurricane and fourth major hurricane in a season that spawned tropical cyclones at a record-breaking pace.

Tropical Storm conditions from Epsilon are currently affecting Bermuda where a tropical storm warning was issued yesterday. Though Epsilon is not a large storm, it intensified rapidly into a Category 3 Major Hurricane on Wednesday, October 21, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory issued at 5 PM Atlantic Standard Time. Epsilon is producing large swells and rip currents affecting Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Lesser and Greater Antilles. Tropical Storm Force winds are present on Bermuda.

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Epsilon has since weakened to a strong Category 1 but will continue to churn out high seas and rip currents as it moves north and then turns to the northeast.

Wilfred was the last of 23 names on the named-storm list for 2020. When the National Hurricane Center runs out of names, they begin using the Greek Alphabet to name tropical cyclones that reach tropical storm strength or greater. Alpha, Gamma, Delta, were the next three storms. Epsilon became the second storm in history named after the Greek Letter. 2005 had 27 named storms and 31 tropical or subtropical cyclones. Zeta is the next Greek letter and will be assigned if another storm ties the 2005 record for the most named storms.

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Hurricane Epsilon Photographed from the International Space Station

Hurricane Epsilon Photographed from the International Space Station – NASA Image

Tropical Activity Forecast

On October 14, the CSU Tropical Meteorology Department issued a two-week forecast that called for above average activity and the formation of at least one tropical cyclone. A non-tropical low organized slowly into Tropical Depression Twenty Seven on October 19. Only three hours passed before the National Hurricane Center upgraded Twenty Seven to a Tropical Storm and named it Epsilon, the fourth letter in the Greek alphabet.

The National Hurricane Center names a tropical cyclone when it reaches Tropical Storm strength or higher. Tropical depressions and sub-tropical depressions are cyclones but are not named unless they attains winds greater than 38 MPH. Depressions are given a number in the order they form. Epsilon began as Tropical Depression Twenty Seven and was named Epsilon after it reached Tropical Storm Strength.

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Forecasters have watched another system in the Caribbean that started with a small chance of development, lost any organization to wind shear, and may once again develop into a depression or tropical storm. Over the next 5 days, the system has a 30 percent chance of development as it moves slowly northeast toward Cuba.

Conditions will remain conducive to tropical development for the next seven days and it is possible for another storm to form in the tropical Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico over the following week.

There are six weeks left in the 2020 hurricane season marked by an intense start that began two weeks early on May 16th. Rapid development set records with every storm after June first, including Tropical Storm Crisobal that retained tropical characteristics all the way though Wisconsin, across the Great Lakes, and into Canada.

Residents and Businesses near the Atlantic or Gulf Coast should stay ready with their Hurricane Preparedness Plan.

Only time will tell, but there remains a good chance that 2020 will set a new record for named storms and possibly an all-time record for tropical cyclones.

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