A Rare January Atlantic Hurricane?

8 01 2016

Dale C. S. Destin |

The fourth ever January tropical cyclone (generic name for depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) could form in the next five days. Weather models have been indicating, with varying degrees of confidence, that a powerful extratropical cyclone centred near Bermuda could transition into a tropical cyclone.

Extratropical cyclone with centre marked by X, next to the red L. 1200 UTC, Jan 8, 2016

Extratropical cyclone, centre marked by X next to the red L. 1200 UTC, Jan 8, 2016 Surface Chart

How often does this happen? This has happened only three other times over the past 165 years, the last being 1978. On average, the probability of a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane developing in January is around 2%. This means that it happens once in about every 50 Januarys/years.

What’s the situation? Already, the extratropical cyclone has winds of 57 knots (65 mph). The winds are of similar strength to a strong tropical storm. However, it lacks tropical characteristics such as a warm core, organized deep convection and strong winds close to its centre of circulation – all features required for it to be classified as a tropical storm or hurricane.

Satellite image of the extratropical cyclone that could transition to tropical cyclone

Satellite image of the extratropical cyclone that could transition into a tropical storm or hurricane

What are the chances of a tropical cyclone this January? Currently, the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC) has given the system a 30% chance of developing into a subtropical or tropical cyclone in the next five days. However, the usually very reliable ECMWF model has the chance greater than 90% for the 48 hours starting from 8 am, Saturday, January 9, 2016.

ECMWF model forecast, valid 8 am Sat, Jan 9 to 8 am Mon, Jan 11, 2016

ECMWF model forecast, valid 8 am Sat, Jan 9 to 8 am Mon, Jan 11, 2016

Will it impact the Caribbean? Whether or not the system develops into a tropical cyclone, it is not expected to have a direct impact on Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean. The centre and storm/hurricane force winds will stay well away from our islands. Notwithstanding, the cyclone will push large battering swells to our shores, making for hazardous marine conditions, especially for sea bathers.

Wave height (ft). Valid 8 pm, Mon, Jan 11, 2016. Issued Jan 8 at 6 pm

Wave height (ft). Valid 8 pm, Mon, Jan 11, 2016. Issued Jan 8 at 6 pm

Wind speed (knots). Valid 8 pm, Mon, Jan 11, 2016. Issued Jan 8 at 6 pm

Wind speed (knots). Valid 8 pm, Mon, Jan 11, 2016. Issued Jan 8 at 6 pm

Where else will it affect? The cyclone will likely make life extremely difficult and dangerous for Team Wadadli and the rest of the rowers taking part in the Atlantic Challenge. In addition to it generating large northerly swells across the preferred path of the race, it is expected to cause strong southerly, westerly and northerly winds during next week.

Swells are expected to reach Africa and Europe during the upcoming week as the system moves east over the eastern North Atlantic.

Where has it affected? Today it caused storm force winds of 43 knots (50 mph) and rain across Bermuda. It has and still is generating very hazardous seas around this island also. Swells from the system have reached the United States east coast and the Bahamas.

What are the other Atlantic January Tropical cyclones? According to NHC’s database – HURDATA2, which dates back to 1851, the three times that there have been tropical cyclones in January are:

None affected any land mass directly.

Has the Caribbean ever receive a direct impact in January? Incidentally, Antigua and the northeast Caribbean were once struck by a Hurricane in January. This happened with Hurricane Alice, which actually formed on December 30, 1954 and crossed over into January 1955, impacting the islands during the first week of the year.

If the extratropical storm does develop into a tropical cyclone it would be called Alex. We will be keeping an eye on this once in a half a century event.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

2 responses

11 01 2016
Growing Concerns for the Atlantic Challenge Rowers | Dale Destin - Antigua Met Service

[…] now, you may have heard of the very powerful extratropical low pressure system that could transition into the first tropical cyclone (generic term for tropical depressions, […]

Like

18 01 2016
Is Hurricane Alex a Sign? | Dale Destin - Antigua Met Service

[…] now you may have heard of Hurricane Alex, the first Atlantic hurricane to form in January since the only other one in 1938, according to HURDAT2. Alex is also only the third hurricane to […]

Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: