"Zombie Storms" Are Rising From The Dead In Time For Halloween

That little black mark near the eye of Hurricane Paulette is Bermuda - September 14, 2020. NASA Earth Observatory/Lauren Dauphin

We’re 10 months into 2020 and finally the zombies have turned up, because if we’re having a zombie apocalypse, this is the year it’s going to happen.

In fact, October 2020 is very on-brand as the Halloween-hosting month goes. Not content with a Full Harvest Moon to kick off events on October 1, followed up by a rare Blue Moon set to occur on Halloween itself, we now have to deal with zombie storms rising from the dead.

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"Zombie storms" are tropical storms that come back to life after having petered out; essentially, they just won't die. This is what happened to Hurricane Paulette, which made landfall on Bermuda on September 14 as a Category 1 storm, strengthened to a Category 2, before losing speed and dying out, only to pop back up on September 28, 482 kilometers (300 miles) off the Azores with a "She's baaaaack!"   

This undead weather phenomenon is rare but not unknown, last seen with Hurricane Ivan in 2004. This year, however, conditions are particularly ripe for them to occur.

Hurricane Paulette on Sept. 13, the day before landfall in Bermuda. NOAA

Paulette was already in unusual company. It's peak hurricane season in the Atlantic where this September five active tropical cyclones formed at once, only the second time in recorded history this has happened. Atlantic Ocean tropical storms form due to the combination of warmer waters near Africa and a westward wind that helps them on their way across the ocean towards the Americas. If the supply of warm water and wind peters out, so do they, but the temperate waters of the Caribbean usually sustain them, albeit briefly, until they die out. However, if the conditions remain favorable for the hurricane, they don't necessarily stay dead, and with climate change already making hurricane season warmer, stronger, and longer, these storms may insist on rejoining the land of the living more often.

"2020 is a good candidate to experience a zombie storm because water temperatures are above average over a bulk of the Atlantic Ocean, and obviously we are seeing a record number of storms – which ups the chances one could regenerate," according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

October is also neatly bookended by two more Halloween-friendly phenomena: two full Moons. The so-called Harvest Moon is the nearest full Moon to the autumn equinox, which occurred on September 22. Visible tonight close after sunset near the horizon, the Moon will also be joined by Mars, which will appear very bright and very red due to the distance between Earth and the Red Planet being so short right now – the reason all those Mars missions launched this summer.

Come Halloween, a rare second Full Moon will occur in the same month, known as a Blue Moon, something that only occurs every 2.5-3 years. Since it's 2020, you can expect everything that has ever been described as happening "once in a Blue Moon" to happen all at once, so buckle up folks, October may be a bumpy ride.  

 

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