The National Hurricane Center announced today that it has discovered the 28th tropical storm of 2005, more than six months after-the-fact. As the Tropical Cyclone Report (PDF) for “Unnamed Subtropical Storm, 4 to 5 October 2005” explains:
As part of its routine post-season review, the Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center (TPC/NHC) on rare occasions identifies from new data or meteorological interpretation a previously unnoted tropical or subtropical cyclone. The TPC/NHC re-analysis of 2005 has revealed a short-lived subtropical storm near the Azores Islands, which increases the record count of tropical/subtropical storms during 2005 to 28.
The NHC adds: “Operationally, it was treated as a non-tropical low. Post-storm analysis, including AMSU data that were not available in real time, indicated that the system had sufficient tropical cyclone characteristics to be considered a subtropical storm for 12-18 h.” The Storm Track offers a slightly different explanation for why the storm wasn’t “operationally” identified: “Like many of the storms last season, this system was located far outside the normal tropically active realm and was therefore overlooked.”
The Unnamed Storm’s short life occurred in between the formation dates of Hurricane Stan (October 1) and Tropical Storm Tammy (October 5). As such, if the Unnamed Storm had been identified in real time, it would have been named “Tammy,” meaning Tammy would have been “Vince,” Vince would have been “Wilma,” and Wilma — the strongest hurricane in the history of the Atlantic basin — would have been “Alpha.” Yup. The Storm Track elaborates:
Hurricane Wilma — which struck Cozumel, Mexico and then Southern Florida after becoming the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic — should have been named Alpha! Yes, the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic should have been named with a Greek letter, and that irreplaceable Greek letter should then have been retired. Some people may be happy such a media circus was avoided. However, one can’t help but wonder if this will be a clear signal to the World Meteorological Organization that perhaps it is time to reconsider the Atlantic tropical cyclone naming system.
It’s entertaining, in light of this, to read my first post about Wilma, announcing its formation and then stating:
If another tropical storm forms between now and the end of the hurricane season (November 30), it will be named Alpha, and we will proceed from there in the Greek alphabet. Imagine if a really bad hurricane forms, and its Ã¢â‚¬Å“nameÃ¢â‚¬? has to be retired! The Greek alphabet would never be the same! ;)
Imagine, indeed. Wilma, if it had been named “Alpha,” would have been that “really bad hurricane”!
Under this alternate-reality scenario, the all-time record for the number of tropical cyclones in a season would have been broken on October 17, when “Alpha” (Wilma, in our reality) formed. That meants my October 22 blog post about the formation of the real Alpha, which was quoted in the Washington Post‘s October 23 article about me (“It’s official: . . . ALPHA BECOMES THE TWENTY-SECOND NAMED STORM OF THE SEASON AND BREAKS THE ALL-TIME RECORD FOR THE MOST ACTIVE SEASON ON RECORD . . . I’ve been talking about this possibility for months, and it has seemed virtually inevitable for weeks, but I’m still sort of stunned that it’s actually happened”) would have been far less dramatic; I would have been blogging about the ho-hum formation of “Beta” rather than the historic storm that broke the record and forced us to dip into the Greek alphabet for the first time ever.
Additionally, if Wilma had been Alpha and Alpha had been Beta, all my talk about “Wilmalpha” would instead have concerned “Alphabeta” — Alphabet for short. :)
Last but not least, the final tropical storm of the season — which, incredibly, formed on December 30, Becky’s and my wedding day (a wedding gift to the weather nerd, Glenn Reynolds called it — should have been named “Eta,” not Zeta. “Zeta” should have been the name of the weirdest storm of the season, the “impossible storm” that “completely lost respect for the governing laws of thermodynamics” and caused the National Hurricane Center to give up — the storm that was, in this reality, known as Epsilon.
To be clear, none of the names will actually be changed. The Unnamed Storm will remain unnamed. But it’s interesting — for giant nerds like me and Bryan Woods, at least — to think about what might have been.