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can 2 hurricanes join together?

Can 2 Hurricanes Join Together?

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Of all the things you may have anticipated to see today, the convergence of two hurricanes is certainly not one of them. Meteorologists and other climate experts attribute the strange phenomenon of today’s atmosphere to climate change, but can two hurricanes actually join together? The movies The Perfect Storm (2000) and 500 MPH (2013) have insinuated that should hurricanes collide, there will be a catastrophic result but this is far from the truth. 

Is this just a wild thought?

The concept is not far-fetched, in fact, in 1921 Japanese meteorologist Sakuhei Fujiwhara posited the “Fujiwhara Effect.” It is a rare phenomenon and according to the National Weather Service:

“When two hurricanes spinning in the same direction pass close enough to each other, they begin an intense dance around their common center. If one hurricane is a lot stronger than the other, the smaller one will orbit it and eventually come crashing into its vortex to be absorbed. Two storms closer in strength can gravitate towards each other until they reach a common point and merge, or merely spin each other around for a while before shooting off on their own paths. In rare occasions, the effect is additive when the hurricanes come together, resulting in one larger storm instead of two smaller ones.”

This means that if two cyclones pass within 900 miles of each other, they can start to orbit and the size of the storm determines what happens next. If two storms get within 190 miles of each other, they can merge (Insider 2020). It may not be as fascinating as a super hurricane but at least a super hurricane will not impact the Caribbean.

Has this happened before?

The Fujiwhara Effect has occurred in the Caribbean, where Tropical Storm Iris got tangled with Hurricane Humberto around the Windward Islands in 1995. They circled each other because Iris became a hurricane and Humberto was consumed. A week later, Hurricane Iris engulfed Tropical Storm Karen which was much weaker. 

The 2017 Hurricane Season was not just infamous for Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but Hurricane Hilary and soon-to-be Hurricane Irwin in the Eastern Pacific Ocean had a fatal tango of their own. The centers of both hurricanes become close, approximately 400 miles apart, which is when the Fujiwhara Effect came into play. Irwin was formed further south; after being stalled over 24 hours it was pulled up north, circled Hilary in an anticlockwise movement, and led to Hilary being weakened. They rotated around each other, merged, and then weakened in cooler water. 

This year, between April 7 and 9, Tropical Storm Seroja impacted the West Australian coast, and Tropical Storm Odette positioned south, moved around Seroja. It approached the center down to a distance of below 1,400km and on April 9, the distance fell to 500km. Although this caused them both to slow down, Seroja gained more strength and subsequently engulfed Odette. 

What does this mean for the future?

Luckily there is no chance that hurricanes will join forces and create one super hurricane. The Fujiwhara Effect can occur in the future, the question is when? 

category 5 hurricane

How Do You Survive A Category 5 Hurricane?

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When you think of a hurricane, your mind may not jump to the likelihood of a category 5 hurricane. Yet with the intensity of activity in the Atlantic Ocean caused by climate change, a category five hurricane may not be so far away. Since 1924, there have been 37 category five hurricanes recorded, with the latest in the Caribbean, being Hurricane Dorian which wreaked havoc on The Bahamas in 2019. In order to prepare a plan of survival, an understanding of category five hurricanes is needed.

About Cat 5 Hurricanes 

Category five hurricanes are the highest classification of hurricanes, with wind speeds of over 157mph. They are most likely form in September, as it has been deemed the heart of the season. They tend not to last longer than 24 hours; however, Hurricane Dorian was a rare example where the power over land extended to 27 hours. Hurricanes of this nature are likely to bring storm surges, extreme battering waves, extreme winds, and torrential downpours. 

How Do I Prepare For a Category 5 Hurricane?

It is in fact difficult to prepare both mentally and physically for such a life altering experience, yet the typical precautions are effective with a greater focus on being self-sufficient in the aftermath. 

  • Stock up on water (by the gallon) to ensure your household has access to fresh drinking water. Drinking tap water after a hurricane could be detrimental to your health as it is compromised by floodwater and mud.
  • Stock up on non-perishable food items and toiletries for the family and even pets to survive during and after the hurricane. This could be as much as a month’s supply. Should you still have perishable foods in the refrigerator and freezer, use them first before consuming the non-perishable items.
  • Invest in hurricane shutters to protect your doors and windows from the onslaught of flying debris.
  • Create a thorough evacuation plan for your family, this may include a hotel reservation. Persons living in coastal areas will be required to evacuate from their homes. If you reside in flood-prone areas, it is wise to become familiar with hurricane shelters. Keeping a packed bag for evacuation is also recommended
  • Gas the car and buy extra supplies of gas to ensure you can travel in case of evacuation. However, after the hurricane has passed, no travel is advised in floodwaters that may be electrically charged. 
  • Get Cash and Store in waterproof containers: Telecommunications and electricity will be severely impacted by strong winds and rains. Withdrawing and saving a stash of cash in a secure location can assist in financing yourself and your family in the aftermath. Important documents should also be stored in waterproof containers
  • Invest in LED lights, lanterns, and backup batteries that can be used during and after the hurricane until power is restored. A battery-operated or crank radio would be essential in keeping you up to date with any changes in the weather
  • Tree trimming will be essential to reduce the chance of them falling on your home. Store some of the wood from the tree bark to assist in making a fire afterward for warmth
  • Check up on your insurance before the hurricane: this allows you to know how much coverage you have for your home.
hurricanes lasting longer over land

Study Finds Hurricanes Lasting Longer Over Land

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Global warming has significantly intensified the strength of hurricanes forming in the Atlantic. The warmer oceans release large amounts of heat that condensates and becomes the optimal place for hurricanes to form. The temperature in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea ranges between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius, with temperatures above 27 degrees Celsius deemed essential conditions for the formation of weather events.

The changing patterns observed for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season have even led experts to suggest an extension of the season until 2021. With more than 25 named storms since June, there’s no doubt that climate change is making an impact. But did you know that in addition to the increased activity, hurricanes are now lasting longer over land? 

In 2012, Physicist Pinaki Chakraborty moved to Okinawa, Japan just ahead of a typhoon that hit the island after forming in the Pacific. Its unusually violent nature piqued his curiosity as to how climate change has made hurricanes more destructive, leading him to conduct a study. In the initial stages, prevailing models were used to explain the evolution of landfalling hurricanes; but they failed to account for increased moisture hurricanes now store, which contributes to hurricanes lasting longer over land,

Chakraborty and his coauthor of “Slower decay of landfalling hurricanes in a warming world,” Lin Li used four models to simulate a hurricane moving inland. The temperature was adjusted beneath each storm. An analysis of data revealed that hurricanes from 50 years ago were likely to weaken by 75% within a day of landfall. Today, the weakening of a storm only occurs by 50% because storms now carry more moisture over land thus taking longer to decay. 

The trend that emerged from the results spoke to the impact of warmer oceans on the movement of hurricanes. Chakraborty explained, “If you have higher sea surface temperatures, you have more moisture in the hurricane, and the more the moisture, the slower the decay because moisture is fueling a slower decay.” 

Other researchers have concurred with the findings such as James Kossin, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “They make a compelling case that this is related to warmer ocean temperatures, and these can, in turn, be linked to climate change,” he said. 

Chakraborty and Lin Li’s research predicted that storms which recently caused destruction across the U.S Gulf Coast are simply an indication of what is to come. 

In October 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc in Georgie causing billions of dollars in damage in economic damage. What researchers found to be interesting, was that at approximately 140 miles inland, the hurricane produced intense winds. Extensive damage was done to crops and residential buildings. The study made reference to the slow yet forceful movement of Hurricane Michael to indicate that they are expected to last longer inland, as they are no longer confined to coastal areas. 

The study has been a step forward in showing how countries need to adapt to the evolving hurricane patterns, especially inland communities. Matters of building codes and protection of crops need to be prioritized for the livelihood of citizens ahead of impact.