Hawaii Gets Through 2020 Hurricane Season Sans Major Impact

December 2, 2020

The 2020 hurricane season set records with the number of storms in Atlantic Ocean regions, but Hawaii escaped largely unscathed in the season that has now drawn to a close.

The Central Pacific basin area experienced only an early tropical depression that did not near Hawaii, while Hurricane Douglas passed close to the islands in late July with little impact, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The season in the Atlantic produced 30 named storms with top wind speeds of 39 mph or more, including 12 which made landfall on the continental U.S.

Thirteen of the storms became hurricanes, which have top winds of 74 mph or greater. There were six major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or greater.

The Central Pacific basin extending north of the equator typically experiences four to five tropical cyclones during an average season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

The 2020 season began with neutral El Nino conditions in the equatorial Pacific, but transitioned to a La Nina weather phenomenon with equatorial ocean temperatures steadily cooling in the summer.

El Nino is a naturally occurring climate phenomenon starting with unusually warm water in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and changing weather worldwide. La Nina is an occasional but natural cooling of the equatorial Pacific that also changes global weather.

Large-scale circulation during La Nina is characterized by a large-scale sinking motion of air over the Eastern and Central Pacific areas, which tends to suppress hurricane activity, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University.

“That quietness in the Central Pacific is pretty typical for a La Nina season,” Klotzbach said.

Hurricane Douglas arrived in the Central Pacific basin July 24 as a Category 4 major hurricane with maximum sustained wind of 130 mph. But the storm gradually weakened and passed within 30 miles north of Oahu July 26 as a Category 1 hurricane.

August and September remained quiet, despite historically being the busiest months for hurricanes.

While hurricane season officially ended Monday, meteorologists warn tropical storms can develop during any month.

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