World’s longest lived cyclone wreaked havoc last year

As Hurricane Beryl continues its catastrophic path through the Caribbean towards the Gulf of Mexico, the earliest category 5 storm on record for the Atlantic hurricane season, analysis of other cyclones has found a new “longest cyclone ever.”

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has declared Tropical Cyclone Freddy, from February-March 2023, to be the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, at 36 days.

Freddy was particularly destructive: among the countries in its path, Malawi reported 1,200 people dead or missing, Mozambique reported 180 and 1.3 million people displaced, and Madagascar reported 200,000 affected.

Freddy started off the coast of Northwest Australia and reached southern Africa in February and March 2023. It caused major human and economic losses in the worst-affected countries.

World's longest lived cyclones (wmo).
World’s longest lived cyclones (WMO).

It was also the second longest in terms of distance travelled.

The previous “longest” record holder was TC John in the North Pacific Ocean in 1994, which existed at tropical storm status or higher for a combined duration of 714 hours, or 29.75 days.

The WMO says Freddy travelled 12,785km (7,945 miles) at tropical storm status or above.

TC John covered 13,159km (8,177 miles) at tropical storm status or above – nearly a third of the Earth’s circumference. 

The WMO says in a news release explaining how it came to measure Freddy: “It is possible, and indeed likely, that greater extremes will occur in the future.”

Chris Velden from the University of Wisconsin, US, describes Freddy as “remarkable.”

“Not only for its longevity but also for its ability to survive multiple land interactions, which unfortunately had significant consequences for southeast African populations,” Velden says.

According to NASA, Freddy had the highest accumulated cyclone energy of any southern hemisphere storm in history and was the equivalent of an average full North Atlantic hurricane season. 

How does a cyclone begin?

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