A Running List of Record-Breaking Natural Disasters in 2020

A Running List of Record-Breaking Natural Disasters in 2020

The year has actually currently seen many extremes, from California’s and Colorado’s biggest wildfires to a tropical cyclone boom

Smoke hangs low in the air along Highway 236 in Boulder Creek, Calif., on August 22,2020 The CZU Lightning Complex fires annihilated the 118- year-old Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s earliest state park. Credit: Kent Nishimura Getty Images

So far 2020 has been a standout year for all the wrong factors, including its terrible natural disasters. Wildfires have ravaged the western U.S., and tropical cyclones have actually popped up left and right, with several triggering significant damage to seaside areas. The current storm, Hurricane Delta, is headed for the Gulf Coast.


Though they are called natural disasters, the toll they take comes in part from human actions. The accumulation of neighborhoods in susceptible areas, such as along the coasts and fire-prone areas of the West, means more individuals are in harm’s method. Climate modification, sustained by greenhouse gas emissions from energy use and industrial processes, has likewise upped the ante. Hotter weather dries out the turfs and forest particles that can ignite, fueling larger and longer-lasting wildfires. And rising seas and heavier rainstorms mean greater flood threats throughout storms.

These elements have actually helped press some of this year’s disasters to surpass– and in some cases, shatter– previous records. This is a running list of all the ones that have been set this year.


The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been a doozy, and it does not even officially end up until November30 Here are a few of the records it has actually currently attained:

  • This is just the second time that the main alphabetical list of cyclone names has been consumed, suggesting forecasters have needed to relocate to the additional list of Greek letter names.
  • If 3 more storms form, 2020 will tie 2005 as the season with the most named storms on record:28 If 4 more type, this year will set a new record.
  • Twenty-two of the 25 storms that formed up until now this season were the earliest of their storm number to do so. Delta was the earliest 25 th called storm of any season, beating out Tropical Storm Gamma, which formed on November 15, 2005.
  • If Cyclone Delta makes landfall as expected, it will be the first time 10 called storms have hit the U.S. in a single season.
  • A Delta landfall will also be the first time a Greek-alphabet-named hurricane has made landfall in the U.S.
  • September, which falls within the peak of the hurricane season, saw a record 10 named storms form within the month. (The previous record was 8.)
  • In mid-September, there were five storms churning around the Atlantic Ocean at the same time for only the 2nd time on record.
  • September 18 marked the second time on record that three named storms– Wilfred, Alpha and Beta– all formed on the exact same day. The only other time this was known to take place was on August 15, 1893, before hurricanes received official alphabetical names.

( The Atlantic hurricane database, managed by the National Typhoon Center, extends back to1851 The lists of alternating male and female cyclone names have been in usage considering that 1979.)


Wildfires have actually taken a massive toll on western U.S. communities, both from flames and hazardous smoke. California has borne the worst of it. Here are a few of the records that have been set:

  • Fires have actually so far burned more than 4 million acres throughout California, about doubling the previous record of almost 2 million acres embeded in2018 Quality records of fires size in California go back to 1932.
  • The August Complex Fire alone has burned more than one million acres, by far the biggest in California’s history. The previous record of more than 459,000 acres was set in 2018 by the Mendocino Complex Fire.
  • Five of California’s 6 largest fires are burning this year.
  • Colorado’s Pine Gulch Fire was the largest in state history, burning more than 139,000 acres.

Rain and Flooding

Heavy rain sent out water levels in the Tittabawassee River to tape-record highs in May, triggering the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams near Midland, Mich. Some 10,000 citizens needed to leave because of the subsequent floods.


So far this year, the U.S. has actually had 16 natural disasters (including wildfires, cyclones, tornadoes and drought) that each triggered a minimum of $1 billion in damage, tying the record set in both 2011 and 2017– with a number of months delegated go. Such statistics have actually been assembled since 1980.



Andrea Thompson

, an associate editor at Scientific American, covers sustainability.

Credit: Nick Higgins

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