Catarina hits Brazil

Pick up any text book on hurricanes and it will tell you that the one place where hurricanes do not occur is the South Atlantic Ocean. The atmosphere does not provide enough spin near the surface to get them started and winds higher in the atmosphere tend to shear off any that do make a start. Hence, it was with some amazement that meteorologists watched the first ever recorded hurricane develop off the coast of Brazil in the last week of March.


Tropical cyclone Catarina off Southern Brazil, 26 March 2004. The first hurricane recorded in the South Atlantic.

Image courtesy of  MODIS Rapid Response Project at NASA/GSF.

Initially the storm did not look much like a hurricane, but in common with some of its counterparts which develop in the North Atlantic Ocean, it acquired enough characteristics to convince the majority of the world's tropical cyclone experts that it was indeed a hurricane. It came ashore in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina on 28 March 2004 with winds, estimated by the US National Hurricane Center, of near 90 m.p.h., causing much damage to property and some loss of life. The Brazilian meteorologists dubbed it 'Catarina'.

Since Catarina other tropical storms have been observed in this region. Tropical Storm Anita occurred in March 2010. This storm stayed off the coast of Brazil with peak winds estimated to be near 50 m.p.h. The following year Tropical Storm Arani developed from a depression which originated over coastal regions of Brazil. As it moved offshore it strengthened into a tropical storm with winds of near 50 m.p.h.

More about tropical cyclone forecasting at the Met Office

Last updated: 7 November 2013

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