Wildfires are burning the West Coast, hurricanes are flooding the Southeast — and some of those storms are rising from the dead.
Zombie storms are storms that regain strength after initially having died out. It is another addition to the more crazy going year 2020.
And these undead weather anomalies are becoming more common thanks to climate change.
Earlier this month, Tropical storm Paulette formed in the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall in Bermuda as a Category 1 hurricane. It then strengthened over land into a Category 2 hurricane, before weakening and dying off five and half days later. But then, a frightening thing happened: the storm wasn’t gone. Paulette regained strength and became a tropical storm once more about 300 miles (480 kilometers) away from the Azores Islands on Monday, September 21. The term “zombie storm” is new, and though the phenomenon has been recorded before, it is thought to be rare.
Zombie storms are going to happen more often,. And as with other natural disasters that have been intensifying in recent years, such as wildfires and hurricanes, climate change and rapid global warming are to blame.
There has been an extreme amount of heating of the Gulf (of Mexico), particularly in some of the ocean areas off of the Carribean. The Gulf of Mexico, where many hurricanes gain strength before hitting the U.S., is particularly vulnerable to global warming because the gulf waters are very shallow — and thus heat up easily.
Atlantic Ocean storms typically form in warmer parts of the ocean near Africa, due to a combination of atmospheric and ocean conditions. They then move across the ocean toward the Americas. Hurricanes need warm water and moist air to form. Storms grow if there’s a continuous supply of energy from warm water and air, and they weaken when they move over cooler waters or over land.
When they were not so strong, in the past, they would just die out over the Atlantic. But now, they reach warm water in the Carribean region and pick up energy again. This is also true for storms that haven’t died out yet. For instance, about a month ago, Hurricane Laura strengthened overnight from a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 storm because it picked up energy from warm water in the Gulf.
With a warming globe, storms are likely to become more intense. That means the idea of “zombie storms” may be here to stay.