The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season set records, as the most active season as well as the most expensive in terms of property damage. Additionally, it was the fifth consecutive season since 2016 with above average number of storms. Overall there were 30 named storms, with thirteen of the storms developing into hurricanes, and six intensifying into major hurricanes. Twelve of the hurricanes that developed made landfall in the contiguous United States, breaking a record set in 1916. The season was also the fifth consecutive one in which a category 5 hurricane was formed. The energy for the 2020 hurricane season was fueled largely by the La Nina event that occurred in the summer months of 2020.

The animations of Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly, Sea Surface Temperature and Sea Surface Salinity clearly show how active the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was, as well as the oceanic response to the multiple storms. The evolution of the ocean response to the 2020 Atlantic tropical cyclones is evaluated using data from the NASA Multi-Scale Ultra-High Resolution (MUR) sea surface temperature (SST) and NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) sea surface salinity (SSS) based on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Captive Active Passive (CAP) Product. The ocean response is clearly observed along the tracks of the 2020 Atlantic tropical cyclones, with waters approximately 2°C cooler from normal along the hurricane track that persisted for several days. It is common to observe trails of cooler water, or cold wakes, along hurricane tracks as a result of wind-induced mixing and turbulence that brings cold waters at depth to the surface. Salinity freshening due to precipitation can also be seen along the hurricane tracks, as well as increased salinity from wind stress-generated vertical mixing. The ocean salinity response to hurricanes is a combination of two competing effects: 1) salinity freshening due to enhanced precipitation and 2) salinity increase due to wind stress-generated vertical mixing, wherein increased salinity from a mid-level maximum is brought to the surface.

Dataset NameProcessing
Start/StopFormatSpatial ResolutionTemporal
GHRSST Level 4 MUR Global Foundation Sea Surface Temperature Analysis (v4.1)4 to PresentNETCDF-40.01 Decimal Degrees x 0.01 Decimal DegreesHourly - < Daily
JPL SMAP Level 3 CAP Sea Surface Salinity Standard Mapped Image 8-Day Running Mean V5.0 Validated Dataset3 to PresentNETCDF-40.6 Decimal Degrees x 0.6 Decimal Degrees8 Day