Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:31 PM GMT on April 02, 2007
We don't pay much attention to Madagascar, the impoverished island of 18 million off the southeast coast of Africa. However, that island has seen a remarkable series of devastating tropical cyclones during the current Southern Hemisphere hurricane season, which peaks in March and is now in its waning months. Tropical Cyclone Jaya, a Category 2 storm poised to strike the island on Tuesday, is the sixth tropical cyclone to bring heavy rains to the island since December--the most number of cyclones to affect the island in such a short period of time. The previous storm, Tropical Cyclone Indlala, hit Madagascar on March 15, killing 80 and leaving 105,000 homeless. The torrential rains of Indlala, in addition to setting world rainfall records for a 72-hour period on nearby La Reunion Island, flooded much of northern Madagascar, wiping out large portions of the rice crop. Earlier this year, 45,000 Madagascarans were left homeless by Cyclone Bondo (25 December 2006), Cyclone Clovis (3 January 2007), Cyclone Favio (18 January 2007), and Cyclone Gamede (26 February 2007). In addition, the seasonal rains have been heavier than usual this year, as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) has been further south than normal.
Jaya is a small cyclone, and is not expected to bring more than about six inches of rain to northern Madagascar. However, the island has not recovered from the flooding from the previous five cyclones, and Jaya's rains will cause great hardship. Madagascar has appealed for $242 million in international aid to help put the country back together.
Figure 1. Visible image of Category 2 Tropical Cyclone Jaya at 06:45 UTC February 2, 2007, as it approached Madagascar. Image credit: NASA.
First typhoon of the year
In the Western Pacific, we have our first typhoon of the 2007 typhoon season, Category 1 Kong-rey. This is a fairly typical time to get the first tropical cyclone in the Western Pacific, where the waters are warm enough year-round to support typhoons. Kong-rey is expected to pass through the Mariana Islands north of Guam as a Category 1 storm, and recurve out to sea. Some of the global computer models we use to forecast hurricanes--the GFS, NOGAPS, and ECMWF--did a remarkable job forecasting the formation of this typhoon as early as seven days in advance. Hopefully, this skill will extend to the coming Atlantic hurricane season!
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