Take a quick glance at the map above and you may think there are only two named storms and a tropical depression in the Atlantic. But look closer, my friends.
There, peeking out on the upper right fringe, is Subtropical Storm Alpha, the first Greek letter-named storm of the season. Of course, in a year of unprecedented tropical storm activity, the first Greek-letter storm would be a weirdo, creeping on the edge of the Atlantic like my cat who constantly stands just out of reach when I want to pet him. (Yes, I am comparing a storm to my cat and maybe it’s a stretch, but I don’t care because I am so very, very tired of hurricane season.)
Subtropical Storm Alpha marks only the second time in recorded history the National Hurricane Center has resorted to using the Greek alphabet to name storms. The other instance was 2005, the current record holder for most named storms in a year. It will surely lose the title this year because that’s how things are going.
There are so many wild things about Subtropical Storm Alpha, it’s hard to know where to begin. The first is look at where this freak formed, off the coast of Portugal. Storms usually end their lives there after taking a C-shaped trip from the tropical Atlantic westward and then curving back northeast toward Europe. Ironically, some examples of storms forming near Portugal include Hurricane Vince in the record-setting 2005, but that storm still formed hundreds of miles offshore. Alpha is glued to the Portuguese coastline with landfall imminent right after it was named.
Then there’s the fact that this wasn’t even likely to become a tropical or subtropical storm in the first place. The NHC gave it a whopping 20% chance of turning into a cyclone in the next 48 hours just an hour and a half before it became one. Instead, all eyes were on Tropical Depression 22 in the Gulf of Mexico, which seemed likely to become Tropical Storm Alpha. Now, it’ll be Tropical Storm Beta when it does form.
The good news is, Alpha will be a mercifully minor weather event. Tropical storm-force winds only extend 35 miles (55 kilometers) from its center and rainfall totals are forecast to max out around 3 inches (7.5 centimeters). But it’s still just damn weird.
Is this climate change? A sign of the apocalypse? That the Atlantic Ocean is sentient and hates meteorologists and weather journalists with a passion? That chemtrails are real? Who can say, really?