After a quiet couple of weeks, the tropics have begun to bubble with activity. Superbugs are invading Florida while a tropical storm tries to form offshore. And Atlanta had its eighth rainiest April.
It’s Cinco de Mayo, so Let’s have a margarita (make mine mango) and Go Around The World.
Tropical Lull Is Over
Cyclone Quang formed quickly in the eastern South Indian Ocean on Wednesday, and struck the uninhabited coast of western Australia on Friday. It was the first tropical cyclone in several weeks anywhere in the world.
Now attention shifts to the northern hemisphere, where tropical trouble is brewing in two oceans.
In the Pacific, Tropical Storm (soon to be Typhoon) Noul is heading towards the northern Philippines, with arrival likely Sunday. Noul is forecast to become a category four storm, with 150 mile per hour winds at its peak of intensity. This would make it a Super-Typhoon as it skirts the northernmost Philippine island.
Activity is also simmering in the Atlantic, where the ‘official’ hurricane season doesn’t begin until June 1. A disturbance over the Bahamas today could become Ana later in the week. Even if it is not named, the storm is likely to produce significant weather and heavy surf along the southeast coast.
History Of Early-Season Tropical Storms In The Atlantic
97% of all Atlantic Basin systems of tropical storm strength or greater occur during the official season (June 1 to Nov. 30). Of the out-of-season storms, nearly two-thirds occur in May.
An Atlantic hurricane before June 1 is extremely rare. Only two have formed in the last 75 years:
- In May, 1951, Hurricane Able reached category three status (top winds 115 mile per hour) and affected the Bahamas and North Carolina. This is the only early-season storm known to reach such intensity.
- In May, 1970, Hurricane Alma struck Cuba and Florida with 80 mile per hour winds.
- There have been no Atlantic hurricanes between January and May in the last 44 years.
In this century (since 2000), five systems have reached tropical storm strength in April or May:
- In April, 2003, Tropical Storm Ana (the same name that will be used for this season’s first storm) surprised Floridians with 60 mile per hour winds.
- In May, 2007, a storm given the name Andrea caused minor beach damage from Florida to North Carolina. The storm never made landfall, but six people drowned in heavy surf. Andrea was classified as a sub-tropical storm, as it had characteristics of both tropical and extra-tropical systems.
- Tropical Storm Arthur formed on May 31, 2008, so it makes the cut for this list, but top winds were only 45 miles per hour and Arthur lived most of its life in June.
- 2012 produced two tropical storms, both of which affected the United States: Alberto and Beryl. The latter, nearly a hurricane with winds of 70 miles per hour, grazed the coastline from Florida to North Carolina. One death was attributed to Beryl.
May, 2015 Tropical System
The potential storm Ana is forming on a small wave over the Bahamas. Ana will get its energy from whatever sources are available. The primary potential energy sources for conversion to wind are (a) adjacent warm and cold air masses (an extra-tropical system), and (b) the release of latent heat when water vapor condenses (a tropical system). It is certainly possible to have both processes going on at the same time, but normally one dominates.
The remnants of an old frontal boundary over the western Atlantic is providing the seed for Ana. The warm ocean water in the Gulf Stream (a couple of degrees above normal) will probably take over the process if Ana develops.
Currently there is no consensus on how much nascent Ana will develop or where it will go. It is certain that it won’t move very fast, and that introduces the possibility that a feedback mechanism may limit the storm’s strength: when a tropical cyclone sits in one place for a few days, the churning of the water upwells colder water from the depths and this can dampen the energy-conversion process.
Six-Legged Destroyers: Hybrid Termites And Fungus-Spreading Beetles Possibly Linked To Global Warming
Isopterists (those who study insects, colloquially called bugologists, or as individuals with phobias or a fondness for euphony might refer to them — creepycrawlyologists) have found spreading menaces from beetles and termites. There could be a weather connection.
The twain has met for the Asian and Formosan termites — two invasive species to the United States — and the twain is Florida. The former species normally mates in February and the latter in April, but in Florida the two have apparently found a happy compromise and are hooking up.
The two termites, the most aggressive species of termite known, have been observed mating in March. Little is known about the characteristics of the hybrid bug, including whether it is even fertile, but if the new species combines the worst traits of the two parents, it could become a resident nuisance (or worse) from Florida to the Carolinas.
Another insect, the redbay ambrosia beetle, has been responsible for killing a half billion trees in Florida by spreading a lethal fungus. As there is no known cure for the fungus, infected and nearby trees must be destroyed to prevent its spread.
Among the types of trees the fungus attacks is the avocado, which represents a $13 million annual crop in Florida. And yes, the redbay ambrosia beetle is a non-native species.
Some isopterists have suggested that global warming has exacerbated the problem of spreading exotics and hybridizing insects. Warmth may have contributed to the overlapping of the termites’ sexual seasons and the increased range of the redbay beetle.
Rainy Nights (And Days) In Georgia; California Still Dry
Much of Georgia experienced twice the normal amount of rainfall for April. In Atlanta, it was the eigth rainiest April on record.
In California, the rainy season ended with very little rain. There are signs that some rain could be on the way, but relief from the drought cannot come until the next rainy season. If El Niño strengthens, serious rains could begin in late fall.
Weather Where You Are
What’s the weather like where you are? Rain? Drought? Severe Weather? Let Decoded Science know what you see?