Cyclone Freddy on track to become longest sustaining cyclone | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Cyclone Freddy on track to become longest sustaining cyclone

ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi
Mar 10, 2023 11:50 PM IST

Freddy has sustained for 33 days now and is currently intensifying again near the Mozambique coast.

Tropical cyclone Freddy is on track to set a record as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record according to the World Meteorological Organisation which announced the constitution of an expert committee to evaluate its intensity and lifespan on Thursday.

A traditional house on the east coast of Madagascar destroyed in the aftermath of cyclone Freddy in Mananjary on February 23, 2023. (AFP)
A traditional house on the east coast of Madagascar destroyed in the aftermath of cyclone Freddy in Mananjary on February 23, 2023. (AFP)

Freddy has sustained for 33 days now and is currently intensifying again near the Mozambique coast.

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Freddy’s journey has intrigued climate scientists at WMO who called its track spanning the entire Indian Ocean, from east to west , “very rare.” The current record is held by Hurricane/Typhoon John, which lasted 31 days in 1994, WMO said on Thursday.

Freddy developed off the North Australian coast and became a named storm on February 6. It crossed the entire South Indian Ocean and made landfall in Madagascar on February 21 and then in Mozambique on February 24. It is now moving away from Madagascar and is expected to intensify again as it moves , according to WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre La Réunion (Meteo-France).

After bringing heavy rains to southern Madagascar, Freddy is heading to make a second landfall in Mozambique (where it already made one) as per forecasts by Meteo France. It was very close to the Mozambique coast on Friday afternoon.

Freddy also holds the record for all-time accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) (storm strength during its lifetime) for the Southern Hemisphere as well as globally, after Cyclone Ioke in 2006 according to a February 23 statement by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration .

Freddy was the first tropical cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere to undergo six separate rounds of rapid intensification, experts said. It crossed the entire Indian Ocean from east to west, affecting Mauritius and La Réunion also on its long journey en route Madagascar. “This kind of super zonal track is very rare,” WMO added.

Climate experts said the long life of Freddy is fuelled by the energy provided from the warm ocean surface. “It’s not clear how much climate change has fuelled this, but surely warm waters have played a role in (it) consistently sourcing heat and moisture throughout its lifetime. The cyclone track was almost entirely over the ocean and this is a factor that kept the cyclone alive. Compare it to cyclones in the Bay of Bengal -- they hit the land in a few days after genesis and fizzle out. Over land, their source of energy supply -- heat and moisture from the warm ocean is cut off. Also, friction over the land reduces cyclone intensity. Warm ocean is a key aspect contributing to rapid intensification of cyclones, and we saw that Cyclone Freddy underwent rapid intensification six times during its lifetime,” explained Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

“Cyclone Freddy in the south Indian Ocean has been active for 33 days now. It is the longest-lasting cyclone ever globally (since satellite era). Top 4 long-lasting cyclones are 1. Freddy (2023): 33 days 2. John (1994): 31 days 3. Leon-Eline (2000): 29 days 4. Ginger (1971): 27.75 day,” tweeted Vineet Kumar, also a research scientist with IITM who specialises in cyclones.

“The life of Freddy is completely linked to warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The surface temperature and the temperature beneath the ocean surface up to 100 meters or so combined with warm temperatures generally during this time of the year must have contributed to its energy. Moreover there has been not much land interaction. The atmospheric circulation also favoured its sustenance,” said M Rajeevan, former secretary, ministry of earth sciences.

“Freddy is having a major socio-economic and humanitarian impact on affected communities. The death toll (21 so far) has been limited by accurate forecasts and early warnings, and coordinated disaster risk reduction action on the ground - although even one casualty is one too many,” said Johan Stander, WMO Services Director in a WMO statement on Thursday.

“The WMO Weather and Climate Extremes Archive are currently assembling a blue-ribbon international committee of scientists. Once the tropical cyclone has dissipated, these experts will begin a detailed examination of the raw data to determine if Freddy has indeed established a record as the longest-duration tropical cyclone on record. One question that we will be addressing is the fact that throughout its long lifetime, the storm has periodically weakened below tropical storm status. We will obviously need to address if that is a concern in our evaluation,” Prof Randall Cerveny, WMO Weather and Climate Extremes rapporteur added in the statement.

And Freddy may still not be done.

“A few forecasts now indicate that Freddy might recurve back to the sea again, after its 2nd landfall at Mozambique. If so, this could be a cyclone that lived more than 40 days! GFS forecast here shows Freddy moving south and fading into the mighty southern ocean westerlies,” Koll tweeted on Friday afternoon.

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