Convergence of climate-driven hurricanes and COVID-19: The impact of 2020 hurricanes Eta and Iota on Nicaragua

James M. Shultz, Ryan C. Berg, James P. Kossin, Frederick Burkle, Alessandra Maggioni, Victoria A. Pinilla Escobar, Melissa Nicole Castillo, Zelde Espinel, Sandro Galea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was notable for a record-setting 30 named storms while, contemporaneously, the COVID-19 pandemic was circumnavigating the globe. The active spread of COVID-19 complicated disaster preparedness and response actions to safeguard coastal and island populations from hurricane hazards. Major hurricanes Eta and Iota, the most powerful storms of the 2020 Atlantic season, made November landfalls just two weeks apart, both coming ashore along the Miskito Coast in Nicaragua's North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Eta and Iota bore the hallmarks of climate-driven storms, including rapid intensification, high peak wind speeds, and decelerating forward motion prior to landfall. Hurricane warning systems, combined with timely evacuation and sheltering procedures, minimized loss of life during hurricane impact. Yet these protective actions potentially elevated risks for COVID-19 transmission for citizens sharing congregate shelters during the storms and for survivors who were displaced post-impact due to severe damage to their homes and communities. International border closures and travel restrictions that were in force to slow the spread of COVID-19 diminished the scope, timeliness, and effectiveness of the humanitarian response for survivors of Eta and Iota. Taken together, the extreme impacts from hurricanes Eta and Iota, compounded by the ubiquitous threat of COVID-19 transmission, and the impediments to international humanitarian response associated with movement restrictions during the pandemic, acted to exacerbate harms to population health for the citizens of Nicaragua.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100019
JournalJournal of Climate Change and Health
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Climate change
  • Climate driver
  • Humanitarian emergency
  • Hurricane
  • Mitigation
  • Tropical cyclone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Global and Planetary Change


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