You just couldn’t make this one up could you? It’s thirty years next Monday since the ‘great’ storm struck and now hurricane Ophelia turns up out of the blue in mid-Atlantic and threatens to do the same thing all over again! The midnight GFS run this morning has the track of Ophelia a little further west of Ireland than it did in yesterdays midday run, but the intensity is similar, but if anything the pressure across the east of England remains higher than previous. The NHC seem to be using the GFS as they’re preferred track for Ophelia, as the media circus frenzy begins to pick up intensity on this side of the Atlantic (fig 2), the NHC have mysteriously removed their wind speed probabilities graphic this morning, possibly because it might have been causing some alarm across Éire!
I was going to post on the newsgroups my thoughts about Ophelia as if somehow it mattered. Better still I thought, I could post a blog and have the freedom to say what the hell I liked! Of course you are welcome to disagree, do feel free to comment.
It’s my firm belief that a tropical cyclones can make it across the Atlantic, a bit battered, on their last legs, but still intact as a tropical storm or even a category 1 hurricane as did Debbie back in 1961. So why shouldn’t Ophelia when it reaches our part of the world like Debbie did before her? Here is a chart of all the long-lived tropical cyclones that made it east of longitude 30° west from the HURDAT2 database (fig 3).
And here’s the full picture, because believe it or not, ex-hurricane How made it to 80° north, and passed across Spitsbergen in 1951 (fig 4), the longevity may have had something to do with all those atmospheric nuclear tests they were doing back then!
I think that very rarely, a fast-moving tropical cyclone can take much longer to dissipate than is normal, and not lose all of their tropical characteristics before they finally transition into an extratropical cyclone, I think hurricane Debbie was a rare example of that, but certainly not the October 1987 storm of thirty years ago. Ophelia may well not make landfall, if the latest GFS run is to be believed, but it could be another rare example of a very long-lived tropical cyclone.
Of course this crazy idea of mine will be disputed by purists who say that a tropical cyclone can’t survive over open water without a SST of at least 27°C to fuel it, but to the 18 or so people who died in Ireland back on the 16th of September 1961 it made little difference as to what produced those hurricane force winds. There’s still a lot we don’t know about cyclones, be it tropical or extratropical, but with global sea temperatures creeping up as they have been doing in recent years, they might start turning up in places where we might not have expected them to: