It’s been a wild six months for megastorms. In October 2015, Hurricane Patricia became the most powerful ever measured, with winds topping 322km/h before being downgraded near the coast of Mexico. In February 2016, there was Winston, the most potent cyclone recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, which made landfall on Fiji. Now meet Fantala, the strongest storm measured over the Indian Ocean.
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured Fantala using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) as it clocked wind speeds of 274km per hour on April 18. A second image released by NASA shows wind speeds as measured by the ISS’s Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat), which bounces microwaves off the ocean to determine the roughness of the water.
What might be to blame for these record-setting storms? Of course it’s all El Niño’s fault. El Niño means warm ocean temperatures in this part of the world, which helps set the stage for big tropical storms like this. But the supersize nature of these storms is also thanks to the 11 consecutive record-breaking months of hot temperatures the planet is experiencing.
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) April 18, 2016
As for this latest storm, we got lucky: Although Fantala was churning near the coast of Madagascar, it never made landfall. But with temperatures continuing to climb and El Niño not quite over yet, there will likely be more of these gigantic storms in the near future.
Top: Cyclone Fantala, seen near the coast of Madagascar. Image: NASA