‘Zombie Storms’ Are The Newest 2020 Calamity, And A Scientist Explains Why They’re Here To Stay

A satellite image shows a tropical storm over the Atlantic.
NOAA / Getty Images

Weather scientists have warned that there’s a new phenomenon sweeping through the meteorological world: zombie storms.

According to Live Science, zombie storms are meteorological events that appear to ebb before emerging from the “dead” and regaining strength. Though there have been reported instances of such events in the past, they were considered very rare. Scientists have claimed that the phenomenon is likely becoming more prevalent because of climate change.

Donald Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has cited the “extreme amount of heating of the Gulf (of Mexico), particularly in some of the ocean areas off of the Caribbean” as one of the main factors contributing to the problem since storms gain strength in warm waters and lose strength in colder temperatures.

Many storms that would target the Americas begin around the coast of Africa and then move across the Atlantic, where the water temperatures drop.

“If they’re not so strong, in the past, they would just die out [over the Atlantic],” Wuebbles explained.

However, he said that the warmer waters around the Caribbean and the southern U.S. have helped revive storms. The process also works in reverse, with more storms forming in the western side of the Atlantic and moving eastward.

Wuebbles warned that this not only means that the phenomenon is here to stay, but also that “storms are likely to become more intense” due to the fluctuations in ocean temperatures.

A man looks out at rough waves.
  Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

One example, seen earlier this month, was tropical storm, Paulette. Paulette was at one point a category two hurricane and seemed to lose strength as it made its way to the Azores. However, days later the storm gained momentum and managed to become a tropical storm.

“Because 2020, we now have Zombie Tropical Storms. Welcome back to the land of the living, Tropical Storm #Paulette,” the National Weather Service wrote in a tweet this past Tuesday.

Zombie storms are the latest in a series of 2020 calamities that have terrified humans across the world. Though the largest has no doubt been the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has infected close to 33 million people across the globe and has claimed nearly one million lives, there have been other pieces of bad news that have only added to the year’s dire reputation. These include the sighting of murder hornets on the west coast of the United States as well as rumors of an asteroid that could hit Earth on the night of the U.S. presidential election.