As tropical cyclone Freddy continues its journey back toward South Africa, the storm appears to be on track to become the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Freddy developed off the North Australian coast and became a named storm on February 6 this year, before crossing the entire South Indian Ocean and making landfall in Madagascar on February 21 and then in Mozambique on February 24.
The WMO said in a statement: “Freddy is now moving away from Madagascar and is expected to intensify as it moves again towards Mozambique. After bringing heavy rains to southern Madagascar, Freddy is heading to make a second landfall in Mozambique.”
The organisation expects more heavy rainfall, hurricane strength winds, high seas and a large storm surge.
"Freddy is having a major socio-economic and humanitarian impact on affected communities. The death toll has been limited by accurate forecasts and early warnings, and coordinated disaster risk reduction action on the ground – although even one casualty is one too many," said Dr Johan Stander, WMO services director.
"This once again underlines the importance of the UN Early Warnings for All initiative to ensure that everyone is protected in the next five years. WMO is committed to working with our partners to achieve this and tackle extreme weather and climate change-related risks – one of the biggest challenges of our times," he said.
WMO regional centre map of track of tropical cyclone Freddy across the southern Indian Ocean to Madagascar and Mozambique.
Four people have died in Madagascar due to the latest rains, bringing Freddy’s death toll to at least 21 people (10 in Mozambique and 11 in Madagascar), according to the latest report from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on March 6.
Mozambique’s national disaster management agency INGD estimates 1.75 million people have been affected, with over 8 000 displaced.
Meteorologists around the world have followed Freddy with keen interest since its inception. The WMO said that it “has been a remarkable storm”.
Freddy tracked across the entire Indian Ocean from east to west, affecting Mauritius and Réunion on its long journey en route to Madagascar. This kind of super zonal track is very rare.
WMO is monitoring whether Freddy will set a new record as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone. It is likely the WMO Weather and Climate Extremes evaluation committee will set up an investigation after the cyclone has dissipated.
"The WMO Weather and Climate Extremes Archive are currently assembling a blue-ribbon international committee of scientists. Once the tropical cyclone has dissipated, these experts will begin a detailed examination of the raw data to determine if Freddy has indeed established a record as the longest-duration tropical cyclone on record,” said Prof Randall Cerveny, WMO weather and climate extremes rapporteur.
“One question that we will be addressing is the fact that throughout its long lifetime, the storm has periodically weakened below tropical storm status. We will obviously need to address if that is a concern in our evaluation."
"Our evaluations are detailed scientific inquiries so they do take time," he said.
The current record is held by Hurricane/Typhoon John, which lasted 31 days in 1994. As of March 10, Freddy has lasted 32 days, which would make it the longest-lasting cyclone in recorded history.
According to Nasa, Freddy has set the record for having the highest accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) of any southern hemisphere storm in history. ACE is an index used to measure the total amount of wind energy associated with a tropical cyclone over its lifetime.