Cyclone Freddy smashes records, becomes Earth’s most energetic storm

Cyclone Freddy – a storm lashing Mozambique for a second time – is solidifying its status as the most relentless tropical cyclone ever observed. On March 7, it became the longest-lived tropical cyclone ever recorded. Now it’s shattered the record for the planet’s most energetic storm.

The inexhaustible storm, which first developed on February 6 north of Western Australia, has already traced a 8850-kilometre path into south-eastern parts of Africa. It struck Madagascar on February 19 and Mozambique for the first time on February 24. Having crossed the Mozambique Channel three separate times, Freddy is now in the midst of its second Mozambique landfall.

A satellite image shows Tropical Cyclone Freddy hitting Mozambique on February 24.

A satellite image shows Tropical Cyclone Freddy hitting Mozambique on February 24.Credit:AP

On Sunday, Freddy was centred near the mouth of the Zambezi River in Mozambique and had winds of about 88 km/h. The storm crossed the coast on Saturday as the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane before gradually losing strength over land.

The storm was blamed for 27 deaths in Madagascar and Mozambique when it lashed the two countries last month. Amid its second landfall in Mozambique this weekend, at least one person has died, Reuters reports, but the full scope of the cyclone’s toll is still unknown because “communications and electricity supply in the storm area have been cut”.

Freddy’s record-setting longevity and bouts of intensification

Freddy attained Category 5 strength twice over the open southern Indian Ocean in mid-February, and has been named for 34 days. That eclipses the previous world record-holder, Hurricane John, which spent 31 days as a named Pacific storm between August 11 and September 13, 1994.

In addition, Freddy has rapidly intensified an unprecedented seven times, compared with the previous record, which was four times. Rapid intensification describes a jump of 56 km/h or greater in a storm’s winds in 24 hours or less. While most major hurricanes and storms do rapidly intensify at least once, anything more than three times in a storm’s life cycle is exceptional.

The world’s most energetic tropical cyclone

After smashing records for lasting so long and intensifying so often, Freddy managed to become Earth’s most energetic storm ever observed after reaching a key threshold this weekend.

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