Remnants of Hurricane Agatha could become Alex as storm threatens Florida

·3-min read

The remnants of Hurricane Agatha, which slammed into Mexico earlier this week, could regather strength to become the first named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm, now entering the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico after crossing the Yucatán peninsula, is “likely to become a tropical depression or tropical storm while it moves slowly northeastward”, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned on Thursday.

If the depression reaches wind speeds over 39mph (63 kph), it will be named Tropical Storm Alex, the first of the 2022 hurricane season which officially began on 1 June.

The NHC gave an 80 per cent chance of the storm becoming a cyclone in the next two days, and also warned that heavy rainfall is possible in southern Florida, as well as parts of the Bahamas and Cuba.

Between four and eight inches of rain is expected in southern Florida, according to the National Weather Service, with isolated instances of up to 10 inches of rain. They add that flash flooding is likely to accompany rainfall, especially in urban areas.

Hurricane Agatha left at least 11 people dead and 33 missing in Mexico after flooding and mudslides, the Associated Press reported. The governor of the state of Oaxaca, Alejando Murat, said rivers burst their banks and swept away homes, while some people were buried under earth and rocks.

The hurricane hit land on the Oaxaca coast on Monday with sustained winds of 105mph and isolated stronger gusts. It made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in May for the eastern Pacific season.

The winds gradually weakened as the storm moved inland over Oaxaca before it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour, according to the NHC. Terminology varies across the globe - in the western North Pacific, hurricanes are typically called typhoons, while similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.

For climate scientists to assess whether the climate crisis influenced the strength of Hurricane Agatha would required what’s known as an attribution study.

Experts have previously found that while the annual number of tropical cyclones has not changed globally as the planet heats, the likelihood of more intense and destructive storms has risen.

Major tropical cyclones have become more frequent across the world, according to the World Weather Attribution (WWA), an initiative by climate scientists to provide robust assessments of climate change’s role in the aftermath of an extreme weather event.

The climate crisis is heating up the world’s oceans, and that warmer water is super-charging cyclones and hurricanes.

“Climate change therefore creates the conditions in which more powerful storms can form, intensify rapidly and persist to reach land, while carrying more water,” the group says.

WWA has also found that extreme rainfall from tropical cyclones increased substantially and storm surges are higher due to sea-level rise.

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