Tag Archives: cyclone

Cyclones favor aggressive spiders, new study shows

Following tropical cyclones, spider colonies with a more aggressive behavior have higher rates of survival and reproduction that those that are more docile, according to a new study. This suggests that extreme weather events could influence animal behavior.

Credit: Flickr

Natural habitats can be severely altered by tropical cyclones but studying their ecological effects can be challenging, as it requires a comparison of habitats both before and after a storm strikes land.

“This is particularly concerning given we are witnessing increasingly frequent and intense extreme climatic events but are unable to accurately predict how they may influence selection pressures, population persistence or extinction,” the authors said in the paper, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Alexander Little and colleagues sampled colonies of the group-living spider Anelosimus studiosus before and after three tropical cyclones hit the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States in 2018.

By anticipating the trajectory of the tropical cyclones, the authors assessed the size of colonies in the projected path and tested how aggressively each colony responded to simulated prey.

The authors vibrated the spiders’ web and counted the number of spiders that subsequently attacked. They then returned 48 hours after the cyclone to see which colonies had survived, and on two later occasions to count how many eggs had been produced and how many spiderlings hatched.

According to the research, colonies that were more aggressive before a cyclone had higher rates of reproduction and juvenile spider survival following a storm strike. In regions unaffected by the tropical cyclones, more docile colonies were favored.

“By studying the impacts of tropical cyclones with spatiotemporal replications and control sites, they show that selectivity for more aggressive colonies of Anelosimus studiosus is a robust evolutionary response to cyclone- induced disturbance,” said Eric Ameca, a conservational biologist.

The authors then follow-up on these findings through a retrospective analysis of colony aggressiveness in sites with historical impacts of cyclones. Using cyclone track data, the authors identified a positive correlation between variation in colony aggressiveness and cyclone disturbance events within the past 100 years.

Looking ahead, it remains to be answered why aggressive colonies of A. studiosus outperform docile colonies when subject to cyclone exposure. At the same time, examining how variations in cyclone exposure shape the strength of selection pressures.

“The effect of inland zonation and habitat quality and composition may become more evident as cyclones grow in intensity and duration. In this regard, the adaptive capacity of historically exposed populations will be crucial to confront the most severe tropical cyclones,” said Ameca.

The study was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Wutip becomes earliest ever super-typhoon, with gusts over 180 mph

During the past few days, the world has been hit with some of the most unusual weather ever. In the UK, warm Mediterranean air masses pushed temperatures to unprecedented peaks, while in the US was hit by flash floods in Tennessee and a massive blizzard storm in the northern plains. Now, another freak weather event is set to hit US territory: Wutip is set to become the earliest super-typhoon in recorded history, hitting Guam with gusts of up to 180 mph (289 km/h).

The typhoon started as low-pressure just south of the Marshall Islands on February 16. It then began to gradually pick up steam while moving westward, finally receiving the name Wutip from the Japan Meteorological Agency on February 20. A day later, Wutip strengthened a severe tropical storm, before intensifying further into a typhoon later that day. It continued to intensify, reaching what was initially predicted to be its peak as a Category 4-equivalent.

But Wutip continued to surprise meteorologists, blowing up into a full Category 5 super-typhoon, becoming the strongest February storm of any kind ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. Sustained winds reached 160 mph (257 km/h).

February typhoons are extremely unusual. The last such storm to brush by Guam was Irma in 1953 — thankfully, the island escaped with minimal damage at the time.

NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite provided an infrared look at Typhoon Wutip on February 21, 2019. Image credits: NASA/NOAA/Williams Straka III/UWM/CIMSS.

Wutip continues its movement towards the Philippines, but thankfully, the storm’s intensity has decreased substantially. In order for such a storm to continue picking up steam, it would need warm ocean waters and weak upper winds — which are a rare occurrence in February. Even the level it reached was extremely unlikely to start with. While previous research has shown that climate change makes extreme weather more likely and tends to exacerbate big storms, there’s no evidence yet to suggest that Wutip is directly connected to climate change.

A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone that develops in the Northern Hemisphere between 180° and 100°E. Typhoons are differentiated from other major storms (such as a cyclone or a storm) solely on the basis of location. Typhoons occur in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, whereas hurricanes occur in the northeastern Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean.

A hurricane is a storm that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean or the northeastern Pacific Ocean, a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and a tropical cyclone occurs in the south Pacific or the Indian Ocean. There are several scales used for classifying these storms, but most common is the Saffir Simpson wind scale, which classifies storms on a scale of 1 (least severe) to 5 (most severe). This scale estimates potential property damage. Category 5 storms can cause catastrophic damage, tearing down house roofs and collapsing walls and trees. These storms have wind speeds of 157 mph (252 km/h) or higher.

Huge waves of foam wash over Froggy Beach after last week’s storm

Stormy weather has an unusual upside if you happen to live on Australia’s eastern coasts: giant waves of sea foam. A video taken a few days after a powerful storm hit Froggy Beach shows a man enjoying this rare phenomenon.

Image via youtube

Big storms or cyclones can sometimes cause the sea to form thick layers of foam according to NOAA, similarly to what you’re used to see in a bathtub rather than in the open ocean.

The foaming is caused by winds and waves stirring the water so proteins, dead algae, and other tiny particles bind together to form longer chemical chains. Grey Leyson captured a stunning video of this phenomenon on Saturday at Froggy’s Beach near Coolangatta, Australia.

While the sea looks inviting enough like this, locals tell that people usually stay away from the ocean after storms as sea snakes have a habit of washing up on the shore.

“The biggest hazard I suppose is sea snakes, there are a lot of sea snakes that get washed in from out further,” Leyson told the Brisbane Times. “You are very unlikely to get bitten by one, but if you do, they are pretty venomous.”

This particular storm brought bigger dangers than a few sea snakes, however. It hit parts of New South Wales with a fury, causing floods and bringing very destructive surfs of over 5 meters (17 feet) on average, reaching up to 12 meters (40 feet) in height.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter elsewhere as the storm destroyed beachfront properties and brought heavy rains threatening the area around Narrabeen Lakes in Sydney with flooding. Four people died, and three people have been reported missing during the storm, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company.

Conditions over New South Wales and Tasmania improved by Tuesday as the storm passed.

New simulation lab will help researchers better understand hurricanes

A lab from the University of Miami will be able to reproduce hurricane conditions on demand, empowering researchers to study hurricanes in a novel way.

Hurricane Isabel, as seen from the International Space Station in September 2003. Image via Wikipedia.

A tropical cyclone (popularly referred to as a hurricane) is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. At sea, tropical cyclones can cause large waves, heavy rain, flood and high winds, disrupting international shipping and potentially causing shipwrecks; on land, they can take an enormous toll in lives and personal property but they may also be important factors in the local climate, bringing much-needed precipitation to otherwise dry regions. All in all, they’re important players for global climate, and understanding them is key for not only for forecasting, but also for climate models.

For this purpose, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science developed the Surge-Structure-Atmosphere Interaction, or SUSTAIN. The lab features a clear acrylic tank about 75 feet (23 meters) long and 6.5 feet (2 meters) high. Inside, all hell can break loose: 38,000 gallons of seawater can be whipped into waves using a 1,700-horsepower fan that can create Category 5 conditions, with winds topping 157 mph. Satellite sensors were mounted on the lab’s ceilings to fine-tune existing satellites watching real storms. Lab director Brian Haus explains how this works:

“The satellites, even though they see a really big area, they tend to be sensitive to really small things on the surface. We don’t really know, when you get into extreme conditions, what the satellite is seeing — whether there’s a spot reflecting off sea spray or bubbles or short waves,” Haus said.

The SUSTAIN lab. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Researchers are also testing tiny drones to fly down into those dark and stormy places, while a variety of other sensors and tools fit for stormy recon. Predictions of storm behaviors have improved dramatically over the last few years, but there is still a so-called “cone of uncertainty”. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami believes the SUSTAIN lab will be crucial for further improvements:

“Intensity forecasting, especially rapid intensification and especially when that happens near the coastline — that remains our highest priority forecast improvement need,” Knabb said.

800,000 Evacuated as 140mph Cyclone Hits India’s East Coast

Improved disaster preparedness and early warning systems in the region greatly reduced the number of casualties caused by “Super Cyclone” Phailin – no less than 800.000 people were evacuated to shelters set up in temples, schools and government buildings to avoid the path of the 140mph cyclone. Phailin resulted in 23 casualties; a comparable cyclone, Orissa, claimed 10.000 lives in 1999.

The predominantly precarious infrastructure in the area was greatly damaged – roads and railways were flooded, trees and power lines were leveled, and some areas are still expecting aid, with the situation being unclear at the moment. As for the low rate of casualties, we have to take it with a grain of salt.

It’s hard to estimate the true number with accuracy, as the Indian government has little or no information from some areas; also, they are notoriously slow in reporting news, sometimes taking them a few days to give out clear statements. The cyclone hit an area inhabited by 12 million people, in some of the world’s most densely populated and underdeveloped areas.

Just as a reminder, extreme weather events don’t only affect the US.

NASA Satellite Reveals Tropical Storm Andrea’s Towering Thnderstorms – Tropical Storm Warning in effect

andrea storm

Towering thunderstorms are a bad sign, often announcing a strong tropical cyclone – and NASA’s satellites observed just that. The TRMM satellite spotted thunderstorms reaching heights of almost 9 miles high within Tropical Storm Andrea, while the Aqua satellite provided an infrared view that revealed very cold cloud top temperatures that coincided with the towering thunderstorms that TRMM saw.

Subtropical Storm Andrea was the first named storm and first subtropical cyclone of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm produced rough surf along the coastline from Florida to North Carolina, causing beach erosion and significant, but not massive damage. This year, things can be much worse.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the west coast of Florida from Boca Grande to Indian Pass, from Flagler Beach, Fla. to Cape Charles Light, Va., the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, and the lower Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort, Va. If you’re in one of those areas or nearby, or you have loved ones living there, check the National Hurricane Center web page at: www.nhc.noaa.gov.

andrea 2

Andrea is expected to head to the North East after it goes through Florida, powering through the American coast on June 8.


NASA images show devastation in Myanmar



Every once in a while, we are reminded that we live on this wonderful planet but that can sometimes display an impressive amount of destructive force. This year, from the first cyclone of the 2008 season in the northern Indian Ocean we were reminded how frail and easy to destroy are the lives of people.According to reports from Accuweather.com, Cyclone Nargis made landfall with sustained winds of 130 mph and gusts of 150-160 mph, which makes it a a strong Category 3 or minimal Category 4 hurricane. Of course, that doesn’t make it quite easy to understand the full implications; let me put it this way: several thousand people have been killed, and thousands more were missing as of May 5.

NASA’s Terra satellite made those two photos, using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) which relies on a combination of visible and infrared light to make floodwaters obvious. Water is blue or nearly black, vegetation is bright green, bare ground is tan, and clouds are white or light blue.

Another bad thing is the fact that many more regions are not prepared to handle this kind of hurricane, and with the rainy season just starting… the future doesn’t sound that great. The entire coastal plain is flooded in the May 5 image.