Hurricane Alex’s New Year’s Resolution

November 19, 2018
Hurricane Alex
NOAA

Hurricane Alex is the first hurricane in January in 75 years. How did a hurricane occur in January?  Read on . . 

Just like most of us resolve to start the New Year, improving our lives, a little Southern storm apparently had the same goal in mind. 

Alex wanted to make something of himself  … the little storm that could.

  • Normally hurricanes form over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Alex didn’t, instead he formed off the southeastern coast of the US.
  • Water temperatures need to be around 79°F to create hurricane conditions, Alex started in water closer to 68°F.
  • Finally, Alex started as a cold front, not a tropical storm. Alex’s real startup name should have been:

    “Baroclinic Low Pressure System Alex.” 

Now doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? 

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Triangle: Extra-tropical storm; Square: Subtropical; Blue Circle: Tropical Storm; Tan Circle: Hurricane
Even Alex’s storm track is a question mark—from off-shore Florida to near Greenland! Source: NOAA

As Alex drifted into warmer water, he gained energy. He became a sub-tropical storm – a warm tropical storm on the bottom while the top still acted like a stormy cold front. Alex continued to travel north collecting strength and energy. “Baroclinic Low Pressure System Alex” finished his journey, on 11:00 AM, January 14, 2016, and became “Hurricane Alex”.

Alex is First January Hurricane Since 1938

Hurricane Alex made history. Most hurricanes form from June through November and January hurricanes are very rare. He is the first January Atlantic hurricane to form since 1938. The last January hurricane, in 1955, was an obnoxious hold-over from December. January hadn’t even seen a tropical storm since 1978.

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Hurricanes, by month, between 1950–2001. Source: NOAA

By the next day, Alex began to weaken. By the time he hit Portugal’s Azores Islands, he had been downgraded to a tropical storm and thankfully created little damage and no casualties on the islands. Residents claimed that the regular storm that hit them in December had been worse.

Now Alex will become little more than a notation in climate history books. A name to be brought out when the next January hurricane comes, and until then perhaps a Trivial Pursuit question or Jeopardy answer.

Now that would sound good on the Jeopardy television show, “This 2016 storm resolved to become the first January hurricane in over 75 years.”

What is Hurricane Alex, Alex?”

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!

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