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Tropical Cyclone Freddy sets world record for longevity
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Tropical Cyclone Freddy sets world record for longevity

Tropical Cyclone Freddy seen as a white whirl of clouds over the island of Madagascar.
Tropical Cyclone Freddy set records for strength and endurance in the Southern Hemisphere as it crossed the width of the Indian Ocean, making landfall on Madagascar and Mozambique before returning to the channel and hitting both landmasses a second time. This image is from March 7, 2023, when Freddy returned to Madagascar. Image via NOAA.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy sets new record

On February 5, 2023, Tropical Cyclone Freddy formed in the eastern Indian Ocean near northern Australia. From the beginning, the cyclone appeared formidable on satellite images as it headed west. It then traversed the entire Indian Ocean over the course of a month. And now – on March 14 – Freddy is still active. It has raged for 37 days, setting a new record as the world’s longest-lived tropical cyclone.

It easily beat out Hurricane John (1994), which lasted for 31 days in the Pacific Ocean. And John had surpassed both 1992’s Hurricane Tina in the Pacific (24 days), as well as the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane’s previous world record of 28 days in the 1899 Atlantic season.

Freddy was only the 4th known cyclone to travel the Indian Ocean from east to west. The powerful and now-deadly storm made landfall on Madagascar on February 21, then crossed over the Mozambique Channel before making landfall in Mozambique. It returned to the channel on March 1, brushing Madagascar again and then returning to Mozambique for a second landfall.

As Freddy churned over this region of Africa, it produced copious rainfall, deadly flooding and mudslides. As of March 14, 2023, more than 200 people have died from Freddy.

Freddy was equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane

Freddy also set a record for the highest accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) of any tropical cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere. At its strongest, Freddy was equivalent to a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane with winds more than 160 miles per hour.

Track with colored dots showing path from eastern Indian Ocean to land in Africa.
This is the track of Cyclone Freddy. It began near Australia and crossed the entire Indian Ocean to hit Madagascar and Mozambique repeatedly. The dots show the storm’s location at 6-hour intervals, and the colors correspond to its strength in those locations, with purple being the strongest. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Freddy’s disastrous effects in Africa

Freddy caused death and destruction everywhere it hit. The current death count stands at 17 people in Madagascar, 20 in Mozambique, 2 in Zimbabwe and 190 in Malawi. The flooding in Malawi was particularly severe in Blantyre, the country’s second-largest city.

Bottom line: Tropical Cyclone Freddy has easily set a new record as the world’s longest-lived cyclone. It has killed more than 200 people in Africa.

Read more: Global warming is making hurricanes stronger

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