Cyclone Freddy: the tropical storm that refuses to die

A tropical cyclone churning off the coast of Madagascar and expected to make landfall for a second time in Mozambique on Saturday — packing winds of as much as 190km/h — appears to have smashed another record.

Freddy, which was first named on 6 February and has already brought heavy rains and havoc to African nations in its path, appears to have become the longest-lasting tropical cyclone ever. The World Meteorological Organization earlier said it was on track to surpass the milestone.

The storm has already killed at least 21 people after causing heavy flooding in Mozambique and Madagascar, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with local authorities saying about 1.75 million people were affected in Mozambique alone.

Forecasters warn there is worse to come in Mozambique with Freddy poised to make landfall again in the nation of 32 million later this week. It previously struck the country on 24 February.

Tropical cyclones — also called hurricanes or typhoons in other regions — are a typical occurrence in the southern hemisphere, usually between November and April. Freddy, which earned its name when it was still just a few hundred kilometers off the northwest coast of Australia, has proved more lasting.

Longer and more intense storms have been predicted by climate change models for decades.

As it prepares to bear down on Mozambique, Freddy has now surpassed the lifespan of Hurricane John, which moved through the eastern and western Pacific Ocean over 31 days in 1994.

Freddy started its life northwest of Australia. Graphic created by Meow using WikiProject Tropical cyclones/Tracks. The background image is from Nasa. Tracking data is from NRL and NOAA

Freddy had already made the history books, including by having the highest accumulated energy of any storm seen in the southern hemisphere, a measure of its total wind strength over its lifespan. It’s also brought around three times the monthly average of rainfall to Madagascar in the last week, according to the WMO.

The cyclone may not be done yet after hitting Mozambique a second time, as long-range projections suggest the storm could intensify again after re-emerging over the sea, said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist at Yale Climate Connections.

“Freddy is like a bad illness you just can’t clear — it refuses to go away and keeps flaring up again,” Masters said.  — Low De Wei, (c) 2023 Bloomberg LP

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