Jan 15, 2016 by


Hurricane Pali Tues Jan 12, 2016 near EQUATOR SW of Hawaii. Pali was the earliest hurricane to form in the central & eastern Pacific.

Hurricane Pali is heading where no hurricane has gone before, within 5 degrees of the equator in the north central Pacific. Forecasters have been stunned by Pali. Tropical storms generally don’t form near the equator because they can’t develop enough spin there but a phenomenal atmospheric wave moved eastward along the equator all the way from the Indian ocean to the eastern Pacific over the last month. That massive wave of thunderstorms on both sides of the equator built a strong surge of westerly winds on the equator as it moved east. When those west winds reached the central Pacific where the Northeasterly trade reach deep into the tropics, the thunderstorms developed spin and tropical storm Pali formed “impossibly” close to the equator. Pali is the earliest tropical storm ever in the central and east north Pacific. Only one other hurricane has ever formed in January in that region. Moreover, Pali has been closer to the equator than any storm in the region. The super El Nino and the very warm equatorial water temperatures played a role, but Pali’s behavior is still hard to explain.

To make the weather even weirder, a subtropical storm, Alex, just formed in the Atlantic…in January. Water temperatures would normally be too low to support development of a tropical storm except for the very cold temperatures aloft. Very cold temperatures persist into the stratosphere above Alex. It’s weird, really weird, how the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is so thick above Alex and how the lower stratosphere is so cold. One of the weird effects of increasing greenhouse gases is the cooling of the lower stratosphere. MIT professor Kerry Emanuel found that the cooling of the transition layer between the troposphere and stratosphere has had a larger impact on increasing the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes than warming sea surface temperatures. Perhaps that has something to do with the bizarre formation of subtropical storm Alex in January.

Subtropical storm Alex has formed in January the Atlantic south of the Azores islands. Winds of about 60 miles per hour are forecast to increase to near hurricane strength. This does not bode well for 2016.

Update Thursday afternoon: Alex has become the first Atlantic hurricane to form in January since 1938 with 85mph sustained winds at 11am EST. The weather is getting weirder and weirder. Here’s NASA’s MODIS AQUA visible image of hurricane Alex this afternoon. It’s unprecedented to have January hurricanes in both the north Atlantic and north Pacific at the same time. This is historic.

1100 AM AST THU JAN 14 2016

Remarkably, Alex has undergone the transformation into a hurricane.
A distinct eye is present, embedded within a fairly symmetric mass
of deep convection.  Water vapor imagery shows that the upper-level
trough is now west of the cyclone, with divergent flow over the
center - indicative of a tropical transition.  It is very unusual to
have a hurricane over waters that are near 20 deg C, but the
upper-tropospheric temperatures are estimated to be around -60 deg
C, which is significantly colder than the tropical mean.  The
resulting instability is likely the main factor contributing to the
tropical transition and intensification of Alex.  With these
changes, the government of the Azores has issued warnings for most
of the Azores islands.

The latest reanalysis shows that the transition layer is not colder than normal now. The development  of Alex into a hurricane is apparently explained by instability associated with warmer than normal water temperatures in the Atlantic and cold winter temperatures aloft.

The potential instability over the Gulf Stream would be much greater than where the hurricane is if cold dry air weren’t flowing off of north America. Water temperatures and the cold air aloft are so potentially unstable that they could theoretically support a marginal category 5 hurricane. Moreover, western Caribbean waters are so warm that they could theoretically support a strong category 5 storm. Not only are the sea surface temperatures warm, the water is warm to considerable depths.


Increasing amounts of heat stored in the oceans is destabilizing the weather.   — end update

This weather is bizarre and disturbing.

1100 PM AST WED JAN 13 2016

Evening satellite imagery indicates that Alex continues to generate
a complex of curved convective bands, and an eye has been trying to
form inside the innermost band.  Satellite intensity estimates are
55-65 kt from TAFB and 55 kt from SAB.  In addition, recent ASCAT-B
data showed winds of 50 kt about 30 n mi southeast of the center.
Based on these data, the initial intensity is increased to 50 kt,
and this could be a little conservative.  Even though Alex has
strengthened, the system is still underneath an upper-level trough,
and it has not yet developed the upper-level outflow characteristic
of a tropical cyclone.

Alex has continued to turn toward the left and the initial motion
is now 035/15.  The cyclone is expected to turn northward during
the next 12-24 hours due to the influence of a large extratropical
low over the northwestern Atlantic.  Alex is expected to turn more
northwestward on the northeast side of this low after 48 hours,
with this motion continuing until the two system merge between
72-96 hours.  The new forecast track is very similar to the
previous track, and it calls for Alex to pass near or over the
Azores in about 36 hours.

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