An Atlantic hurricane season like no other continues as 2020 has delivered another record-breaking storm. Hurricane Iota strengthened into the season’s first Category 5 storm and late on Monday made landfall in Nicaragua — a region already reeling from the previous Category 4 Hurricane Eta.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned of extreme winds, a life-threatening storm surge and flooding on Monday night. As of Tuesday, the storm continued to threaten parts of Central America with rain and mudslides despite lower wind speeds that dropped it down to a Category 4 at the time of landfall.
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Satellites tracking the storm delivered sobering views from above. The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University shared a GIF of the hurricane and its churning clouds on Monday.
The World Meteorological Organization tweeted an infrared view that highlighted the storm’s swirling center.
A hurricane must have sustained winds of 157 mph (252 kmh) to qualify as a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a tool for understanding a storm’s potential for destruction. “Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and higher are considered major hurricanes because of their potential for significant loss of life and damage,” the NHC says.
Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach described Iota as “the latest Atlantic calendar year Category 5 hurricane on record,” and cited a storm known as the Cuba hurricane from Nov. 8, 1932 as the previous record holder.
This has been an unprecedented year that already saw us run out of typical storm names and log the most named storms on record.
Scientists are investigating the phenomenon of stronger and wetter storms and looking into possible connections with climate change. If the trend continues, then 2020 may not remain an outlier for long.