10 steamy signs in 2020 that climate change is speeding up


As the world turned its eyes to a dire pandemic, another global catastrophe was not-so-quietly gaining steam: Climate change has been simmering since the Industrial Revolution, but 2020 was a year that really drove home how fast it’s accelerating. We blazed past ominous milestones that were supposed to take decades to arrive, broke records every month, and watched the frozen North melt even faster than anticipated. From record wildfires to a bumper crop of hurricanes to melting poles, here are some of the biggest signs in 2020 that climate change is speeding up.

Zombie storms are rising from the dead

Potential tropical storm Paulette captured on Sept. 23. after it returned from the dead.

(Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-East Band 13)

As climate change dumps heat into our oceans and atmosphere, there’s more energy around to spark hurricanes. One side effect: Tropical storms that died are being resurrected more often. Case in point: In mid-September, Tropical Storm Paulette formed as a Category 1 before strengthening, then petering out over the Atlantic Ocean five and a half days later. But Paulette was not quite dead. Paulette opened her eye on Sept. 21, and regained strength to form into a tropical storm. Such zombie storms used to be rare because hurricanes lost steam as they rolled north into cooler waters, but thanks to climate change, extreme ocean heating is giving them a second boost, Donald Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Live Science. Extreme heating in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where many storms strengthen before slamming into the U.S., could be particularly vulnerable to climate change, Wuebbles said.

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