Formation of an unusual off-season North Atlantic Hurricane


Hurricane Alex on Jan. 14 at 15:30 UTC (10:30 a.m. EST) in the central Atlantic Ocean. The image revealed an eye and showed bands of thunderstorms spiraling into the low level center of circulation. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response
Hurricane Alex on Jan. 14 at 15:30 UTC (10:30 a.m. EST) in the central Atlantic Ocean. The image revealed an eye and showed bands of thunderstorms spiraling into the low level center of circulation. Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response

The low pressure area known as System 90L developed rapidly since Jan. 13 and became Hurricane Alex on Jan. 14. Several satellites and instruments captured data on this out-of-season storm. NASA’s RapidScat instrument observed sustained winds shift and intensify in the system and NASA’s Aqua satellite saw the storm develop from a low pressure area into a sub-tropical storm. NOAA’s GOES-East satellite data was made into an animation that showed the development of the unusual storm.

Twice on Jan. 13 NASA’s RapidScat instrument measured the strongest sustained winds in what was then a tropical low pressure area called “System 90L.” RapidScat flies aboard the International Space Station. RapidScat’s earliest view of System 90L showed strongest sustained winds were near 27 meters per second (mps)/60.4 mph/97.2 kph) and were located northwest of center. Eight hours later at 1200 UTC (7 a.m. EST) strongest sustained winds shifted east of center and increased to near 30 mps (67.1 mph/108 kph), making them tropical-storm force.

Later in the day at 2100 UTC (4 p.m. EST) satellite images indicated that the low pressure system developed into a subtropical storm and was named Alex. At the time, Alex was located near 27.1 degrees north latitude and 30.8 degrees west longitude, about 782 miles (1,260 km) south-southwest of the Azores.

By 1500 UTC (10 a.m. EST) on January 14, hurricane force winds extended outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the center and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 150 miles (240 km).

An animation of GOES-East satellite visible and infrared imagery from Jan. 10 to 14 showed the development of Hurricane Alex in the Central [Atlantic] Ocean. The animation was created at the NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The animation showed the sub-tropical low pressure area consolidate quickly on Jan. 13 and reach hurricane status on Jan. 14, 2016.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a visible image of Hurricane Alex on Jan. 14 at 15:30 UTC (10:30 a.m. EST) in the central Atlantic Ocean. The image revealed an eye and showed bands of thunderstorms spiraling into the low level center of circulation.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Alex is the first hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938. Alex is also the first North Atlantic hurricane thriving in January since Alice of 1955, which formed on Dec. 30, 1954. Alice developed on December 30, 1954 from a trough of low pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean in an area of unusually favorable conditions.

The Azores Meteorological Service has issued a Hurricane Warning for the islands of Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira in the central Azores, and a Tropical Storm Warning for the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern Azores. [ ]

At 10 a.m. EST (1500 UTC), the National Hurricane Center said that the center of Hurricane Alex was located near latitude 31.5 North, longitude 28.4 West. Alex was moving toward the north-northeast near 20 mph (31 kph) and a turn toward the north with an increase in forward speed is expected over the next day or two. On the forecast track, the center of Alex will move near or over portions of the Azores Friday morning, Jan. 15.

Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph (140 kph) with higher gusts. Little change in strength is forecast through Friday. The estimated minimum central pressure is 981 millibars.

NHC’s Forecaster Pasch said “Remarkably, Alex has undergone the transformation into a hurricane. A distinct eye is present, embedded within a fairly symmetric mass of deep convection. It is very unusual to have a hurricane over waters that are near 20 degrees Celsius, but the upper-tropospheric temperatures are estimated to be around -60 degrees Celsius, 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.”

Alex is expected to maintain hurricane status on Friday, Jan. 15 and transition into an extra-tropical storm by Jan. 16 as it continues to move north toward Greenland.


For updates on Alex, visit NOAA’s NHC website: .


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January 15, 2016 8:21 am

“According to the National Hurricane Center, Alex is the first hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938”
So, what we’re saying is that nothing has really changed since 1938.

Reply to  RH
January 15, 2016 8:40 am

Notwithstanding this is in fact a deep depression associated with a strong anticyclonic meridian trajectory descent of polar air when we had 1057 hPa over central Greenland as can be seen on the January 12th maps and satellite…
Once again separating depressions from their associated anticyclones leads to misattribution… Fortunately the video illustration shows the deep progression of the cold air mass. Nothing to do with a regular hurricane at all.

Reply to  RH
January 16, 2016 6:45 am

There was an interesting news report on this yesterday. It went something like: “This is the first such hurricane in 78 years. THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED!!!”

David A
Reply to  RH
January 17, 2016 5:33 am

Other then our ability to detect hurricanes.

Werner Brozek
January 15, 2016 8:26 am

Central Pacific Ocean

Typo? Atlantic
[Thank you. The value of having lots of careful eyes peer-review our work. .mod]

Leon Brozyna
Reply to  Werner Brozek
January 15, 2016 9:16 am

I went to check it out at the NASA/Goddard site and, sure enough, they’re geographically challenged … two words say it all …
Government employees

Reply to  Leon Brozyna
January 17, 2016 2:00 am

I would choose an entirely different two words; Rapid Scat. Makes more sense to me…

January 15, 2016 8:41 am

A reminder to the Climate Faithful that their ‘Global Warming will lead to more hurricanes because they are powered by warm water’ meme is actually not true. Hurricanes, like all storm systems, are powered by temperature DIFFERENCES.

Reply to  schitzree
January 15, 2016 8:59 am

Yep. The longest living known cyclone is Jupiter’s Red Spot. Not exactly balmy that way I dare say.

Being and Time
Reply to  ShrNfr
January 16, 2016 9:08 pm

Actually, Jupiter’s Red Spot is an anticyclone–a high pressure system—and rather unlike a hurricane in every respect.

Reply to  schitzree
January 15, 2016 10:42 am

And in this case, it is the abnormal cold high up. Probably located in that IPCC hotspot.

Reply to  schitzree
January 16, 2016 12:46 am

There is notable correlation of ACE and SST but the two warmest periods in the record show distinct DROP in total cyclone energy.
Cyclones don’t like ‘pauses’. Interesting that the last time a January cyclone formed was in the pre-WWII drop in ACE too.

Reply to  schitzree
January 16, 2016 12:48 am

Cross-correlation of ACE and SST shows two distinct peaks 60 and 9.1y. 9.1 is lunar: see article on Climate Etc.

Reply to  Mike
January 17, 2016 12:49 pm

I see two peaks [not Twin Peaks], but the cross-correlation would have – in my opinion – perhaps benefited from a little more explanation – notably, from the graph; I see no 60 year – unless the bottom scale is per century, m a y b e . . . then it’s 0.0166667, and – ahh the 9,1 year is about 0.11.
You Reek Ah!
Not stunningly user-friendly, on a generalist site, if I may venture a comment.
uhh – p3 about 0.18 – half some eleven year cycle (??) – but nothing I can se at 0.0909 . . .
Ehhh – now the 0.25 non cycle-peak indicates that world cups [Rugby, Cricket, even football (Soccer in N. America) and Olympiads] appear to have negligible effects.
Sorry about the stream of consciousness effects.
I was starting posting before looking carefully/detailedly. [There is such a word, ‘cos I’ve just used it. This is English – which works, with few discernible rules].
Auto – doing a Humpty D

bit chilly
Reply to  schitzree
January 17, 2016 6:31 am

which is why we should expect more as the amo enters the cool phase . we may not have had satellite storm tracking as the amo went cool previously,but we do have historical records of ships lost to bad weather and the storms that made landfall in the uk.

January 15, 2016 8:42 am

Ummmmm, so ??

Reply to  Marcus
January 15, 2016 12:50 pm

It hasn’t happened for 78 years, it’s interesting. Do we need another reason?

Peter Miller
January 15, 2016 8:42 am

I have to be the first one to say it here:
“This out of season hurricane is further definite proof of climate change.”
I feel so much better for getting that in first before all the similar bleats there will be from the alarmist community.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Peter Miller
January 15, 2016 2:05 pm

C’mon. You know its God’s punishment for Gay Marriage…;-)

Reply to  Peter Miller
January 16, 2016 12:51 am

No, it happened last time there was a ‘pause’ . Climate not change in action.

Mark from the Midwest
January 15, 2016 8:46 am

“but the upper-tropospheric temperatures are estimated to be around -60 degrees Celsius, which is significantly colder than the tropical mean.”
So cold is contributing to the formation of an extreme low pressure system. This makes perfect sense to me, but I’m sure the usual news outlets will report it as “one more sign of global warming”

January 15, 2016 8:48 am

This is great news for all the surfers in Europe. Everyone else stay safe ,with an abundance of caution to the fishermen and mariners! Nice to witness an extraordinary weather event, from afar.

Reply to  Wharfplank
January 16, 2016 3:43 pm

I’m a surfer from Europe, and I’ve been following Alex’s progress avidly:
With a bit of luck the beginnings of his swell will arrive in my neck of the woods tomorrow, accompanied by an offshore breeze 🙂

bit chilly
Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 17, 2016 6:33 am

i am a winter shore angler from europe, and enjoyed fishing right through the worst of the storm.

Reply to  Jim Hunt
January 18, 2016 1:52 am

My luck held Chilly. You should leave the shore and try the winter sea instead!

January 15, 2016 8:49 am

How many such hurricanes formed before there were satellites to know about them? In December 1954/January 1955, Hurricane Alice formed and struck the Lesser Antilles. The only reason we know is because it formed around land. 1954 was an especially bad hurricane year. Hazel was the only Cat-4 to make landfall in North Carolina and New England had two Cat-3 hurricanes strike within a few days and a few miles from each other.

Steve Fraser
January 15, 2016 8:54 am

The current track looks very much straight north. Fun to watch the rainbow at

Leon Brozyna
January 15, 2016 9:10 am

It’s unprecedented…no, not the hurricane but the fact that no one (so far) has described it as unprecedented.

FJ Shepherd
Reply to  Leon Brozyna
January 15, 2016 9:14 am

Give them time. The climate alarmists can be slow on the take, so to speak.

John Robertson
January 15, 2016 9:12 am

Since 1938?
How do they know this?
Storms did not even get names when they stayed out to sea, prior to aviation and satellite the only reports were from ships who encountered the weather.
And survived to report it of course.
This is one comedy of better earth observation systems.
Projecting what we now measure, backwards in time.
Speculation basically.
Curiously I read somewhere that the Spanish treasure fleets were hard hit by series of hurricanes, unseen today.
Might cause one to speculate that a cooler world or a more southerly jet stream can set up nasty conditions at sea.

Reply to  John Robertson
January 15, 2016 9:57 am

“…First…since 1938” Well of course, we really don’t know now do we? Before the satellite era, there could have been several January hurricanes that we just didn’t know about. When it comes to hurricane records, the only record with any accuracy before the satellite era is “Major hurricanes making landfall in USA”. All the other records are fraught with error.

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
January 15, 2016 12:56 pm

“First that we are aware of since 1938”. Better?
Our records from that time are fairly good, and the North Atlantic is well traveled. We know after that point a January Hurricane didn’t hit any land or any significant group of ships.

Reply to  John Robertson
January 15, 2016 9:57 am

There is good evidence along multiple lines to support that. Increased Atlantic hurricane activity positively correlates to negative ENSO, positive WAMO and negative AMO. Atlantic hurricane activity was particularly harsh during the Little Ice Age.

Steve R
January 15, 2016 9:13 am

I’m surprised that it was not named as a 2015 hurricane season storm. Larry, rather than Alex.

Reply to  Steve R
January 15, 2016 9:45 am

I’m surprised that it was not named as a 2015 hurricane season storm. Larry, rather than Alex.

No propaganda value in doing THAT. See, that would would emphasize the lowest number of hurricanes through even an entire extended season, rather than the headline-gripping “Earliest Hurricane Ever!” (Well, into the pre-satellite, pre-“name every storm a hurricane” era.”

January 15, 2016 9:20 am

> … first hurricane to form in January since 1938 … first thriving in January since 1955 …
So not as rare as a South Atlantic hurricane (any month). “Catarina” (2004) is the only one on record: (Note that it is spinning clockwise)

Robert B
Reply to  Johanus
January 15, 2016 2:23 pm

A paper was put out in 2012, Evans, Jenny L; Braun, Aviva J (2012). “A Climatology of Subtropical Cyclones in the South Atlantic”. Journal of Climate (American Meteorological Society) (25): 7328–7340. and according to WIkipedia,

t was noted that suspect systems had developed in January 1970, March 1994, January 2004, March 2004, May 2004, February 2006 and March 2006.[7] It was also suggested that an effort should be made to locate any possible systems using satellite imagery and synoptic data, however, it was noted that this effort maybe hindered by the lack of any geostationary imagery over the basin before 1966.[7] A study was subsequently performed and published during 2012 which concluded that there had been 63 subtropical cyclones in the Southern Atlantic between 1957 and 2007

Needless to say, someone with access to the journal might need to confirm that.

Reply to  Robert B
January 15, 2016 2:50 pm

Not all cyclones are hurricanes. I suspect the systems reported in the Evans-Braun paper were lesser in magnitude. That’s why the name of the only hurricane on record begins with the letter “C”.
In any case it is very likely that many hurricanes have occurred in the South Atlantic over the past few centuries that were not recorded because no one observed them (or perished in the storm).
IMHO the apparent rise in the number of recent “climate disasters” is almost certainly due to over-reporting/activism by the MSM.

January 15, 2016 9:44 am

Immediately following the Battle of Trafalgar (21 Oct 1805), a major storm struck the British fleet as it made its way to the safe harbour of Gibraltar. The storm raged for over a week and was so destructive that of the 19 captured French and Spanish warships, all but 4 had to be abandoned, in order to save the battered British fleet. Officers and ratings of all 3 national fleets reported that they had never before witnessed such a storm. Such experienced sailors would otherwise never have abandoned so valuable a bounty. Another El Nino coincidence?

January 15, 2016 10:05 am

“first to form 1938…first to thrive 1955” Can some one tell me how the 1955 Hurricane thrived without forming or does that mean it originated in the South Atlantic?

Reply to  fossilsage
January 15, 2016 10:17 am

My take was they were referring to both being in January as firsts. The 1955 storm thrived in January after being formed in December.

David Chappell
Reply to  fossilsage
January 15, 2016 10:29 am

“…Alice developed on December 30, 1954 from a trough of low pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean…”

January 15, 2016 10:12 am

BBC TV weather forecasts are already “warning” that, due to the current predictions regarding the jet stream, Alex “may” influence the British weather.

Reply to  Oldseadog
January 15, 2016 10:37 am

Looking at the Meteosat NE Atlantic water vapor loop I would say that this storm was induced by cold air advection from the northwest into a 500mbz trough around the Azores.
This has the effect of enhancing vertical movement, leading to cyclone development. Cyclones are, in effect, giant thermal vacuum cleaners, sucking warmer air from the surface to the upper troposphere, where it is more easily radiating into space. And you can see all of that cold air headed towards Europe.
So, yes, it could affect weather in Europe. Expect colder temperatures.

January 15, 2016 10:25 am

I wonder what a hurricane would be like – in Greeland? Especially if you’re unemployed.

January 15, 2016 10:31 am

Seeing this hurricane is the pendant of a descending Mobile Polar High, I bring into memory the violent storms of february 1 1953 and january 13 1916

Reply to  Hans Erren
January 15, 2016 11:44 am

@ Hans Erren , I thought the 1953 storm was a Northwester along the Dutch coast?

Berényi Péter
January 15, 2016 11:02 am

It is very unusual to have a hurricane over waters that are near 20 degrees Celsius, but the upper-tropospheric temperatures are estimated to be around -60 degrees Celsius, which is significantly colder than the tropical mean.

So, it formed over cool sea surface, under an unusually cold upper troposphere. However, that’s not the way a splendid story is spun, it has to be linked to climate change, right?
Unusual ‘Hurricane Alex’ barrelling to the Azores linked to climate change and warmer waters
That is, similar storms of 1938 and 1955 were not caused by global warming, but this one surely is. Therefore it is an unprecedented occurrence.

Reply to  Berényi Péter
January 15, 2016 12:20 pm

> … cool sea surface, under an unusually cold upper troposphere…
Yes. Using UWisc’s public GIS weather tools (CIMSS:, you can see that sea-surface temps (SST) around the Azores are less than 25C, way below 26C usually considered the minimum temp for hurricane development
[Click on the “SST” button in the top menu to activate the SST heat-map colors]
You can see that the storm is projected to be still a Cat 1, even in the purple region (5C) which is definitely “refrigerator” weather.
But are these temps low or high for this season? Let’s check the NOAA SST anomaly charts for Jan 14 (where “anomaly” denotes any departure from the expected mean SST):
You can clearly see that the Azores (two black dashes at 37N 27W) are in the blue region, which is a slightly negative anomaly. So colder than usual.
So it’s the super-cold air advecting from the NW, colliding with a cold trough in the upper troposphere, which has caused this storm to develop. Not unusually warm sea temps as the MSM is reporting.

Reply to  Johanus
January 16, 2016 9:11 am

I apologize in advance for this OT comment but note the ‘cold blob’ in the NW Pacific. I would bet that it progresses clockwise toward Alaska and down the US west coast over the next couple/few years just as the most recent ‘warm blob’ did.

Reply to  Berényi Péter
January 16, 2016 1:03 am

Yep, the length of time since the preceding similar event shows it is unprecedented ( except by the preceding event ).

The Original Mike M
January 15, 2016 11:41 am
Gary Pearse
January 15, 2016 11:42 am
There were tropical storms in every month of the year and absence of hurricanes only in February and April. Rare, but not untoward.

January 15, 2016 12:32 pm

Hmmm…….cold air + very cold air = GLO.BULL WARMING !!! LOL

Joe Civis
Reply to  Marcus
January 15, 2016 3:14 pm

yes Marcus, in “catastrophic math” 2 colds equal a warming, or anything with CO2 equals a catastrophe! Gorebull warming indeed!

Reply to  Joe Civis
January 15, 2016 3:17 pm

..Well, it was definitely ” MANN ” made !! LOL

Steve Fraser
January 15, 2016 1:35 pm

On reaching tha Azores, the storm was downgraded to ‘tropical storm’…

Reply to  Steve Fraser
January 15, 2016 2:59 pm

Reality trumps “model projections”.

January 15, 2016 1:55 pm

The concern about a hurricane entering the Arctic with warmer air and extra energy could end up producing a SSW event and further displace the Polar vortex further south ( Currently it is already elongated shape over Canada producing -30 C weather over the Canadian west.) Even more colder weather potentially in the future ?

January 15, 2016 3:37 pm

Thanks, Anthony. Good report on Alex.

Joel O'Bryan
January 15, 2016 5:15 pm

“…as it continues to move north toward Greenland.”
Now that’ll make for some positive snow mass balance for the charts to graph.

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