Alex Now An Unprecedented January Atlantic Hurricane — Joins Pali in Two Storm Tale For the Record Books

“It is rather surreal to be saying this in January… but the satellite presentation of Pali has continued to improve today…” Hurricane Forecaster R. Ballard on January 11th.

“It is flat-out ridiculous that NHC & CPHC are writing advisories at the same time in January- first time on record!” National Hurricane Center’s Richard Blake in a tweet on January 13.

“Remarkably, Alex has undergone transformation into a hurricane.” National Hurricane Center forecaster Richard Pasch in a statement this morning.


The rising latent heat energy contained in this world’s water. That’s one of the big stories about how a human-forced climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions can essentially alter the geophysical nature of our Earth. Alter it in ways we’ve never before seen. Ways that produce all kinds of hazards from rapid glacial melt, to rising sea levels, to increasingly intense droughts, to flash wildfires, and to new, never-before seen storms.

This morning, at the same time a similarly freakish tropical cyclone Pali raged through the Pacific, another unprecedented thing happened. A thing related to the rising potential storm energy of the North Atlantic during Winter time due, in large part, to warming ocean waters and how the energy wafting off those waters tends to generate storms, strengthen storms and push their ability to develop outside of the typical ranges to which we are accustomed.

(Alex fed on warm water as it moved from a screaming hot region of ocean off the US East Coast, across above normal water temperatures in the Central North Atlantic, to a much warmer than normal region off the coast of Africa. As a result, Alex is now the strongest of two hurricanes ever to have formed in the North Atlantic during January since records began in 1771. Video Source: GOES Composite by

This morning, according to the National Hurricane Center, subtropical storm Alex made a full conversion to an Atlantic hurricane. Its maximum sustained winds, fed by all that extra heat bleeding off Atlantic waters, hit 85 miles per hour making it the strongest of only two hurricanes ever to form in January since record-keeping began in 1771. A December-forming Alice hit 90 miles per hour intensity on January 2 of 1955, which makes Alex the second-strongest storm to have hit the North Atlantic during the month. But Alex is the only storm to have formed during January to have generated such an intense wind field in an Atlantic tropical cyclone. This makes Alex an unprecedented event for two reasons — its occurrence at the same time as another January hurricane in the Pacific and due to its intensity as a January-forming storm.

And it’s also forming in an odd location and in an odd manner. Alex originated off the US East Coast. It fed on ridiculously warm waters there even as it made this odd, eastward path toward Africa. It formed near the Azores, in a zone which, according to hurricane specialist Eric Blake, would be a rare spot even for September. Most storms typically form off of Africa much closer to the Equator and then churn westward toward the Caribbean. And though storms do sometimes form outside of that climatological hurricane hotspot, Alex appears to have done just about everything backwards.


(Sea surface temperature anomaly map by Earth Nullschool. From the ridiculously hot and backed up Gulf Stream off the US East Coast through to the 1 C hotter than normal waters near the Azores, Alex has had nothing but hotter than normal ocean waters to draw energy from throughout its transformation into the strongest January-forming hurricane on record. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

A Surreal Category 2 Hurricane in January?

Alex also still appears to be strengthening. According to National Hurricane Center reports, it may peak out at or near category 2 hurricane strength (82 knots maximum wind speed or topping out near 96 mph) by later this afternoon (NHC predicts an 80 knot or near 95 mph maximum intensity at this time) . By early tomorrow morning, the storm’s projected path brings it directly over the Azores. So it appears that this Atlantic island chain may be set to experience a CAT 2 storm during January. It’s a situation that invokes a sense of the surreal, as R. Ballard noted about Pali on the 11th. One in which it’s pretty clear that the world we’re living in now is one that has been dramatically altered by an incessant and growing rate of fossil fuel burning since the end of the 19th Century.

After roaring through the Azores, Alex is predicted to set a path toward the far North Atlantic and Greenland. A storm that’s expected to last through to at least Saturday as it transitions from a warm-core Winter tropical system to a mixed or cold core extratropical storm.

The rarity of this particular event in the context of other concurrent events cannot be overstated. We have never had a hurricane of this strength form in the Atlantic during January. We have never had a tropical cyclone, during the same period, form so early in the Central Pacific. And we have never had two storms of this intensity raging during this period of what is supposed to be deep Winter in both the Pacific and Atlantic.

As Dr. Jeff Masters stated so poignantly yesterday — it’s unprecedented. Just absolutely unprecedented.

UPDATE: The forecast strength for Alex has since been revised to 75 knots in the most recent NHC briefing. It therefore appears unlikely that Alex will reach CAT 2 strength this afternoon. Alex remains the strongest hurricane to have formed during January and the second strongest storm to hit the Atlantic basin at any time during January since record-keeping began in 1771.


Unprecedented Simultaneous Named Storms in the Atlantic and Pacific in January

Alex GOES Composite

The National Hurricane Center

Out of Season Tropical Cyclones

Hurricane Specialist Eric Blake

Earth Nullschool

Central Pacific Hurricane Center Statement on Hurricane Pali

Hat Tip to Kevin Jones

Hat Tip to Greg

Scientific Hat Tip to Dr. Jeff Masters

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to GiantSquid2


Leave a comment


  1. I attribute these abnormal weather patterns as the result of our supreme reliance, support, demand, greed & ignorance regarding factory farming practices; in other words I believe wholeheartedly in the Cowspiracy documentary.

    • wili

       /  January 14, 2016

      There are lots of good things about that documentary, but a vegan friend of mine who teaches college classes on the subject has stopped using it for instruction because there are too many inaccuracies and misrepresentations. It mostly depends on one UN study on the significance of ag and industrial meat compared to ff burning and other sources of GW, to the neglect of many other studies that show much lower numbers for meats role in GW.

      Getting off meat and dairy is still an important step for most people to take if they are imagining living in a world that is not ravaged by the worst of GW, and if they want to live in a world where all can have access to enough nutrients to survive and thrive. But we should always be as accurate as possible in presenting our side, imho.

      • The center of gravity is fossil fuel emissions. Cutting out meat helps. But you can’t get there without removing fossil fuels. I’ve gone vegan myself for both moral and carbon emissions related reasons. And it’s something than an individual can do to help the situation. Something I wholeheartedly encourage. But let’s be clear. Fossil fuels is where the vast bulk of the greenhouse gas emissions are coming from now.

    • Who ever choose the title to this documentary, seriously damaged their creditably… and the credibility of the message they are trying to convey.

      Who were the producers trying to reach, or were they just yelling down a well and listening to their own echo?

      But like John Wayne says…. “If you are going to be stupid, you had better be tough.”

  2. Jeremy

     /  January 14, 2016

    “Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is the greatest threat facing the world’s economy in 2016, according to the “unprecedented” results of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual survey, released Thursday.”

  3. Kevin Jones

     /  January 14, 2016

    I recall an old sailors’ hurricane season ditty that began, June too Soon. And ended with November Remember….

    • Yeah, if you want to move a boat offshore from the NE to the Caribbean, most insurance companies will not cover you till after Nov 1…. and then you get the shit beat out (northeast and cold rain) till you get to Bermuda. A few serious insurance claims and they will be changing that policy.

      The other thing I have noticed is what was called the “elbow” in the gulf stream, when you leave Block Island you could pick up a south flow of the gulf stream (it took a sharp bend in that area) for over 100 miles… gives you a 8 knot push to Bermuda… that is not there anymore….. last trip I did south was in 2008.

  4. Jeremy

     /  January 14, 2016

    “The UN’s World Food Programme says climate change is stretching resources, and warming could cause a ‘semi-permanent food disaster’ in parts of the world.”

  5. cRR Kampen

     /  January 14, 2016

    Precedents up to a point, a couple of (sub-)tropical systems and an unnamed actual hurricane (cat. 1) in the first week of January 1938. Also a minimal hurricane Alice by 31st of Dec 1954 keeping it up to the 4th, like TS Zeta in 2006 this would belong to the former season. So it is collected by Bob Henson at Wunderground in their newest post.

    Hurricane Alex is the strongest of them all and as such is indeed unprecedented.
    The Azores getting it in January is, or was, so utterly unimaginable that I still feel bewildered.

  6. Colorado Bob

     /  January 14, 2016

    After passing through the Leeward Islands on January 2, 1955, Alice reached peak winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) before encountering cold air and turning to the southeast. It dissipated on January 6 over the southeastern Caribbean Sea.

    One more crazy thing about Alex, it’s headed to Greenland.

    • Got you here Bob. Thanks for the reminder. But we do have the strongest January-forming storm in the form of Alex this year. Alice formed in December and is still the strongest Atlantic storm to have been present in the Atlantic in January. But that may only last for a few more hours given the NHC forecast of 80 knots or near 95 mph peak intensity for Alex.

  7. Paul PNW

     /  January 14, 2016

    A lot of my friends (republicans ofc) still completely deny there’s problem, I’d laugh if it wasn’t so unbearably tragic.

  8. Colorado Bob

     /  January 14, 2016

    Strange days have found us
    Strange days have tracked us down
    They’re going to destroy
    Our casual joys
    We shall go on playing
    Or find a new town

    • CB are you a closet “Nature Bats Last Groupie”??? lol

      • I doubt it. Bob’s too smart to be taken in by NBL. Bob, like all of us here, recognize that things are going south. That they’re going to get bad. And that we might not make it. On his worst days, he falls into a very honest depression. That’s different than being held under the spell of the ether that’s being put up for sale by those actively shilling it.

      • Colorado Bob

         /  January 14, 2016

        Frankly I’ve always had trouble telling the difference between my elbow and a hot rock.

  9. Andy in SD

     /  January 14, 2016

    One item that I have not seen much traction on….

    During El Nino, Atlantic Cyclones are muted significantly. They are more prevelant, and stronger during La Nina episodes.

    This is occurring during El Nino, so what can we expect as things track back towards neutral and then La Nina?

    • I think it’s pretty clear that the Winter Atlantic cyclone formation does not hold with any of the typical summer patterns. El Nino during summer suppresses storm formation due to the fact that wind shear tends to increase in regions of typical storm genesis. The Atlantic this summer was actually rather active for an El Nino year. Probably due to all the very warm SSTs.

      As for El Nino, it does appear to be moving off peak. Consensus models do point to a more neutral state by mid to late summer. La Nina as a signal hasn’t really popped up yet even in the long range. And we do have some of the models pointing toward a bounce back toward strengthening El Nino conditions by Fall. But that’s only in a few of the models at this time.

      One final thing to think about for the Atlantic is that the differing influences between the majority warm water and the cool pool near Greenland do generate quite a lot of instability in the atmosphere. And that’s an added kick that’s needed for new storm formation. This particularly relates to Dr. Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren.

    • That is an interesting point… I think “Storms of My Grandchildren” went into depth on that issue. But it has been a few years since I read it. Time for a reread.

  10. Syd Bridges

     /  January 14, 2016

    Robert, thank you so much for your indefatigable posts. The run of new events makes it feel as though the climate is in freefall. Fortunately, Dr Spencer & co, can pooh-pooh it before Ted Cruz and reality can go out of the window. Tamino posted this video from Andrew Dessler on the satellite evidence. Ted Cruz alert for those without a strong stomach..

    • wili

       /  January 14, 2016

      Predictably, it fell apart as it approached the equator as the coriolis effect that gives cyclones their spin disappears there (then goes in reverse in the southern hemisphere).

  11. Colorado Bob

     /  January 14, 2016

    ” What we’ve seen is the warmest December on record and what’s interesting is that we’ve broke the record by 2 degrees – this is the consequences of one degree of warming that’s caused by human influence on climate in the last century. What’s interesting is that even at the scale of the UK in a single month, the largest natural climate fluctuation in existence – that’s the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific – is being overtaken by climate change.”

    – Myles Allen – Professor, Geosystem Science, Oxford University


  12. Colorado Bob

     /  January 14, 2016

    This whole last month reminds me of the ole’ Pink Floyd cut –

    The part where all the alarm clocks go off.

  13. Colorado Bob

     /  January 14, 2016

    Hello everyone, bookmark this video that Syd Bridges posted. Watch it. It rips the ” Satellite Data Fur Ball ” to pieces.

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