SCIENCE

What Is A 'Zombie' Tropical Storm?

A week after making landfall and fizzling out, Paulette is back ... "because 2020."

A week after slamming into Bermuda as a Category 1 hurricane, Paulette is back from the dead ― this time as a tropical storm spinning off the coast of North Africa.

Paulette made landfall in Bermuda on Sept. 14 ― the first hurricane to strike the British island territory since Gonzalo in 2014 ― before turning east and dissipating into the Atlantic. But remnants of Paulette regained tropical storm strength late Monday southeast of the Azores, an archipelago off the coast of Portugal, with maximum sustained winds reaching 60 mph on Tuesday.

The so-called “zombie” storm is a fitting phenomenon for a hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season, which has already seen so many storms that forecasters ran out of names and were forced to move on to the Greek alphabet. 

“Welcome back to the land of the living, Tropical Storm #Paulette,” the National Weather Service wrote in a Tuesday post to Twitter. 

The good news is Paulette is not forecast to make a third run across the Atlantic. It began weakening Tuesday and is expected to become post-tropical later this week. 

The last hurricane to fizzle out and re-spawn as a tropical storm was Ivan in 2004, which struck Alabama as a Category 3 before making a loop over the Florida peninsula and making landfall in Louisiana as a tropical depression.

The Atlantic basin has seen a frenzy of cyclone activity in 2020, and we’re only halfway through the official hurricane season. 

Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama last week as a slow-moving Category 2 storm, dumping more than two feet of rain on parts of the Florida panhandle and causing widespread flooding. Tropical Storm Beta ― the 23rd named storm of the season ― made landfall in Texas late Monday with sustained winds of 45 mph. Beta is the ninth named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this year, which ties the 1916 record for the most landfalls in a single season. 

Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy is swirling off the U.S. northeast coast as a Category 2 as it heads for Nova Scotia, Canada. The tail of the storm stretches all the way to Beta in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Scientists already see the fingerprints of human-caused climate change in hurricanes ― a federal study in May concluded that climate change is supercharging cyclones, making them larger and more intense ― and the impacts are forecast to worsen as global temperatures continue to soar.