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You Are Not Hallucinating – Hurricane Leslie Is Headed Toward Spain And Africa

(Source: forbes.com)

You absolutely read the title correctly, and it is very similar to one that I wrote about Hurricane Ophelia in 2017. Hurricane Leslie is currently headed toward Africa and Europe. The “toward” is the “weather weird” part of the statement because typically tropical systems have their origins in easterly waves that move “away” from the African continent.  Leslie is a long-lasting storm that has drunkenly meandered around the Atlantic Ocean since September 23rd. I am writing this on October 12th. It has generated 15 named days according to Colorado State University expert Dr. Philip Klotzbach and certainly has some days left. I should also mention that spent a few days as a post-tropical system, and those are not counted as part of the named record. You can certainly see why Hurricane Leslie has been called the “zombie” storm.  What caught my eye is the latest forecast track, and a statement issued by the National Hurricane Center:

A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for Madeira Island (north of the Canary Islands) in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean due to #Leslie. Tropical-storm-force winds are expected early Saturday morning.

If you look at current satellite imagery of Hurricane Leslie moving eastward (below), Africa and Europe are within view folks. That’s weird.

Before I discuss how weird that is, it is useful to explore Leslie’s history. Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski laid out a timeline of Leslie on Accuweather’s website. I have summarize his timeline:

  1. Leslie initially formed as a subtropical storm in the middle of the Atlantic.
  2. Leslie becomes tropical on October 3rd.
  3. Leslie weakens to tropical storm on October 4th and remains at that level until October 9th.
  4. Leslie becomes a hurricane on October 9th

When you look at the latest projected track of Leslie, places like Portugal, Spain, and Morocco appear on the map. If you want to know just how odd this track is, consider a social media post from my colleague Dr. Tom Gill at University of Texas – El Paso. Tom wrote on his Facebook page,

From the weather weirding department: (Citing a NOAA hurricane discussion at 5:00 am AST) “a tropical storm warning has been issued for (Madeira)) island. It is the first known tropical storm warning for that place, and there are no known tropical storms in the historical record anywhere within 100 miles of that island, with the closest being Vince of 2005.” And there is a lonnnnnnnnnnnng historical record in Madeira. Perhaps the first tropical cyclone to ever directly impact Madeira in its long history. Yep, the weather patterns are changing.

It gets even weirder. If you probe further into the National Hurricane Center discussion there is talk about some of the best weather models in the world suggesting landfall in Portugal or Spain. Other models loop the storm to the south and back west. The fact that I am even writing “landfall” and Iberian Peninsula in the same paragraph is just odd.

In 2017, Hurricane Ophelia was a freakish storm too. Ireland was actually in the forecast cone of uncertainty. At one point, Ophelia was targeting the Iberian Peninsula too. Kevin Loria documented in Business Insider only two known storms on record to hit the Iberian Peninsula (1842 and 2005). The tropical depression “formerly known as Hurricane Vince” was the most recent example. I pointed out in a 2017 Forbes piece about Hurricane Ophelia:

A 2013 study published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that climate warming will bring more hurricanes to Europe. Using a climate model with very high resolution, the researchers found that increasing Atlantic tropical sea surface temperatures would extend eastward. This would provide a “fuel-laden” path for storms moving back toward Europe. Typically such storms die or go through extratropical transition, however, the additional energy from warm waters on “steroids” may provide an extra boost. I have been particularly surprised that Hurricane Ophelia has held together, and waters are warm enough to support its tropical requirements.

I know, I know. Some corners of the Internet will hyperventilate that there have been a sample of storms that probably did this in history, and we don’t have records before the satellite era. I agree. However, in my scientific viewpoint, it is somewhat naive to completely dismiss that warming sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic and is contributing to weather weirdos like Hurricanes Leslie and Ophelia. The figure below shows current sea surface temperature anomalies (differences from the climatological normal period 1981 to 2010) in the eastern Atlantic right now.

 

More Info: forbes.com

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