The possibility of a hurricane reaching Spain next week is real. And it’s not the most worrying

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Yesterday the alarms went off in meteorological agencies throughout Europe: predictive models they began to draw a hurricane much further north and much more intense than we have ever seen. The uncertainties are enormous, yes; but, perhaps for the first time, the possibility that an extratropical cyclone “getting too close to the peninsula is on the table”.

However, alarmism can mislead us. The maps are spectacular, yes, and the risk that it affects the northwest of the peninsula cannot be ruled out; but if we focus too much on this, we run the risk of losing sight of the fundamentals: we are talking about a hurricane forming at our latitude, we are talking about atmospheric mechanisms changing and we don’t know what we are going to find.

What’s going on? That all the weather models we use point out the probable formation of an extratropical hurricane around the Azores in the next 168 hours. It is true that 168 hours is a long time (we are talking about Wednesday of next week), but the coincidence between models is so strong that European meteorologists have spent hours analyzing the data in great detail.

For its part, the US National Hurricane Center yesterday increased the odds of cyclone formation above 60%. In fact, As González Alemán pointed outas the models are progressing, “it is practically certain that the North American CNH will declare its formation and name it in the next few hours”.


The first hurricane to affect the Peninsula? Not quite. And it is that although in recent years the peninsula has begun to be affected by some hurricanes (the Vince made landfall in Huelva at 9 in the morning of October 11, 2005, yes; but in recent years a lot of hurricanes have turned in the middle of the Atlantic and have set course for the Old Continent – the cover image is a good example ), the truth is that they are tropical storms: in most cases the remains of storms that come from the great hurricane factory that It is the corridor that goes from Cape Verde to the Caribbean.

First known hurricane to form this far north. What the models now indicate, whether they are true or not, is that a hurricane is forming too far north, too far north. This, although scientists have been warning for years, is what is radically new. Although to understand it well, we have to remember how hurricanes form.


What exactly is a hurricane?. In general, there are at least two major types of cyclonic storms: tropical cyclones and polar lows. The fundamental difference between them is the mechanism that feeds them. Tropical cyclones use the condensation of moist air to create a closed circulation storm system around a center of low pressure.

In the image above we can see the “anatomy” of a hurricane in the northern hemisphere, but in essence tropical cyclones need moisture in the air. I mean, heat. That is why they are tropical and why they occur only in certain regions of the world: where the water-air system is hot enough (and unstable enough) to create such a “horizontal heat engine”.

The great Atlantic hurricane factory…. This means that, if we talk about the North Atlantic, the most powerful storms begin to form near the coast of Cape Verde and, pushed by the trade winds, they acquire entity in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and nearby areas. Areas where the temperature of the sea is high and there is humidity in the environment. From there, hurricanes often follow the Gulf Stream, climb up the East Coast of the United States, and veer toward Europe. Or this was what happened until now.

Never before have we seen a category 5 hurricane so close to Spain: Lorenzo prepares to advance over Europe

…is relocating? This is what is worrying. As the hours progress it seems that the storm will form although we do not know very well where. Some models actually they draw it very far from the country. However, this sets a very very black precedent. If this is the first of a new hurricane path, sooner rather than later we will have to face situations for which we are not even remotely prepared. It is inevitable to have the feeling that in the next few days everything we knew about the atmospheric circulation of the North Atlantic may change.

Image | Satellite image of Hurricane Lorenzo (2019)

Yesterday the alarms went off in meteorological agencies throughout Europe: predictive models they began to draw a hurricane much further…

Yesterday the alarms went off in meteorological agencies throughout Europe: predictive models they began to draw a hurricane much further…

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