The Atlantic is becoming “tropical” and that has a consequence: our waters are getting closer to being able to sustain a hurricane
“Category 4 hurricanes at the gates of Spain”? That is the meteorological question that has been repeated the most in recent days due to the barrage of headlines and, beyond the sensationalism that may be generated, there is a lot to explain.
Above all, because the answer to the question is, at the same time, yes and no.
The waters of the northwest Atlantic are getting hotter and that means problems, problems and more problems
The map of discord. A few days ago, meteorologist González Alemán was surprised that at the beginning of November “the atmospheric/oceanic environment in the Northeast Atlantic” was “capable of supporting (theoretically) a hurricane of up to category 3 or 4.” That is what you can see on the map above.
The “theoretically” was in the tweet from the beginning and, in addition, right afterward he clarified that “this does not mean that a category 4 hurricane will form in the area.” He didn’t care a bit: in recent days, many have echoed the possibility that we will encounter a hurricane in Santa Cruz de Tenerife or the Bay of Cádiz.
This, of course, is imprecise (if not downright misleading), but in the process we have had a wonderful opportunity to understand what is really happening in the Atlantic.
What does this mean? González Alemán himself explained it very well , the map above indicates “the Maximum Potential Intensity, a magnitude that measures the maximum energy that a tropical cyclone could obtain from the atmosphere and the ocean. That is, the maximum intensity that a cyclone could reach tropical if developed in the area”.
That, of course, does not mean that a hurricane will form, nor that (if it does form) it will reach those categories. It simply indicates what is the theoretical limit that could be reached. As we have repeated many times, the ocean surface temperature is “gasoline” for meteorological events, yes; but without the “spark” the gasoline is unable to do anything.
In fact, in this case, not even the spark would be enough to reach categories 3 or 4. In addition to spark and fuel, we would need the conditions at the time to be favorable (things like low shear or humid environment). Something that, let’s face it, is virtually impossible right now.
So why is it important? First of all, because “it’s outrageous.” We are talking about very rare ( or directly unprecedented ) potential maximum intensities at the beginning of November. And, secondly, because what is happening is, basically, a “tropicalization” of the oceanic regions closest to the Canary Islands and the peninsula.
Something that can be seen as an example of many things (and, in fact, scientists continue to argue about possible explanations), but that does not stop reminding us that the energy balance of the Earth is increasingly positive and the planet is hotter, It has consequences.
And you will have more. Many of them unpredictable. For this reason, we must be careful with how we communicate all this. After seeing how a few weeks ago Otis went from ‘tropical storm’ to ‘Y5 category hurricane’ in less than 24 hours off the coast of Acapulco (and destroying the city in the process), we must be aware of the importance of communicate extreme weather events well. It is the difference between life and death in many regions of the world.