Rare January hurricane spins in North Atlantic

The first hurricane of the 2016 Atlantic season formed four and a half months before hurricane season officially begins.

As of Thursday morning, the first hurricane of the season is a Category 1 storm spinning several hundred miles south of the Azores–a sparsely populated island chain 890 miles west of Portugal. Hurricane warnings are in effect for the islands as the storm treks northward.

Hurricane Alex's position in the Atlantic Ocean (courtesy: NHC)
Hurricane Alex’s position in the Atlantic Ocean (courtesy: NHC)

Hurricanes rely on warm water to form and strengthen. This storm is unusual not only because of the month in which it formed, but also because the ocean water underneath is a cool 68ºF — as brisk as Barton Springs!

Water temperatures that chilly typically cannot energize a system to hurricane strength (74+ mph). The National Hurricane Center cites an unusually unstable atmosphere within the storm environment as the reason it intensified regardless.

GOING IN-DEPTH// Historical Perspective
  • 1st January-born hurricane since 1938
  • 2nd hurricane to form that far northeast in the Atlantic Ocean at any time of the year
  • 4th January hurricane in history (records extend back to 1851)

Hurricane Alex is expected to maintain hurricane strength for the next 24 hours, then weaken as it transitions from a tropical system to a “post-tropical” storm. That type of storm is much more common so far north in the Atlantic.

Follow Hurricane Alex with the KXAN Tropical Tracker.

Here’s a list of the names that will follow Alex during the upcoming 2016 Atlantic hurricane season:

  • Alex (active)
  • Bonnie (unused)
  • Colin (unused)
  • Danielle (unused)
  • Earl (unused)
  • Fiona (unused)
  • Gaston (unused)
  • Hermine (unused)
  • Ian (unused)
  • Julia (unused)
  • Karl (unused)
  • Lisa (unused)
  • Matthew (unused)
  • Nicole (unused)
  • Otto (unused)
  • Paula (unused)
  • Richard (unused)
  • Shary (unused)
  • Tobias (unused)
  • Virginie (unused)
  • Walter (unused)

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