JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Tropical cyclone Freddy hit the coast of South Africa for the second time over the weekend, bringing the total death toll to more than 220 in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar.
Meteorologists say the month-long storm broke at least one record and could break two more.
As climate change causes the oceans to warm, heat energy from the water’s surface fuels stronger storms.
Here are some of the main reasons why Freddy is noteworthy.
highest circular energy
Freddy holds the record for most accumulated hurricane energy (ACE), a measure based on the strength of a storm’s winds over its lifetime, for any storm in the Southern Hemisphere and possibly worldwide.
Freddy has generated nearly as much hurricane energy accumulation as the average entire hurricane season in the North Atlantic, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
And by last week, it held the second place for the most accumulated hurricane energy of any storm since 1980, with the record held by Hurricane and Hurricane Ioke in 2006.
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Some estimates show that Freddy has since broken that record, with 86 ACE compared to Ioke’s 85 ACE.
Freddy may have broken the record for longest-running tropical cyclone on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
The current record was set by a 31-day tornado in 1994.
Freddy first developed on February 6 and made its second landfall off the coast of Mozambique on March 11, 34 days later.
However, experts still have to consider several factors, such as the fact that it declined from tropical cyclone status at some points during that period, in order to determine if it broke the record, the World Meteorological Organization said.
Most condensation cycles
Freddy appears to have broken the world record for most bouts of rapid intensification, defined as a wind speed increase of 35 mph in a 24-hour period.
The World Meteorological Organization said Freddy had seven separate cycles of rapid intensification, according to satellite estimates. The previous record was four, which was reached by several hurricanes.
She added that the World Meteorological Organization will form a committee of experts to examine this record in addition to other records.
Evolving off the coast of Australia, Freddy traversed the entire southern Indian Ocean and traveled more than 8,000 km (4,970 miles) to reach Madagascar and Mozambique in late February.
She then turned again and hit the coast of Mozambique again two weeks later, before moving inland to Malawi.
“No other tropical cyclone observed in this part of the world has taken such a path across the Indian Ocean in the past two decades,” the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an article.
She added that only four storms crossed the southern Indian Ocean from east to west, the last of which was in 2000.
(Reporting by Nellie Beaton) Editing by Alexander Winning and Angus McSwan
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