Iota Marks 30 Named Atlantic Storm

Iota’s eye was visible and surrounded by powerful thunderstorms. Credit: NOAA/NESDIS, Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory

by Ashira Morris, ODP Contributing Writer

Hurricane Iota, the 30th named storm this year, made landfall in Nicaragua Monday night as a Category 4 storm. As it continues to move across Central America, it could still bring “life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, flash flooding and landslides,” according to the National Hurricane Center. Iota was the second Category 4 storm to hit the region in two weeks — Hurricane Eta hit just 15 miles away from where Iota made landfall on Nov. 3. 

The hurricane first made landfall as a Category 5 storm on the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia, which sit in the Caribbean east of Nicaragua. It was the first time a storm of that intensity hit the island.

Why This Matters: Climate change created the conditions for this year’s record-breaking hurricane season. Warmer water temperatures in the Caribbean this late in the year coupled with a warmer atmosphere that holds more water vapor fueled the intense storms. Both Eta and Iota were among the strongest storms in recorded history. They also make 2020 the first hurricane season with two major hurricanes in November. 

The areas hit by Hurricane Iota haven’t had time to recover from Eta before being battered by another storm. Buildings haven’t been repaired, there’s still standing water, and the land is saturated, increasing the risk of landslides. And since Iota rapidly intensified from a tropical storm to Category 4 storm, gaining 70 mph in wind speeds over just 24 hours, it left less time for people to prepare for the much stronger oncoming storm. 

Climate Migration: The devastation of back-to-back storms coupled with the ongoing health and economic crisis of the pandemic could lead people in the region to leave their homes.

Increased movements across borders are now more likely, including of people fleeing violence and persecution,” said Giovanni Bassu, the regional representative for Central America and Cuba for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in a statement last week.

As climate change continues to reshape the environment, people’s lives and homes are at risk of being upended too. Drought and food insecurity have already led many in Central America to move, and those numbers are only expected to increase as the world warms and produces more extreme weather.


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