Satellite view of Subtropical Storm Alex. Image: NOAA
Last updated July 20, 2018
Jan 13, 2016
-
Jan 17, 2016

Hurricane Alex 2016

Azores
Portugal

Hurricane Alex was the first Atlantic hurricane in January since 1955 and the first storm to form in the month of January since 1938.

January 2016 saw two unusual hurricane events—Alex in the Atlantic and Pali in the Pacific—due to the strong 2015-2016 El Niño event and ocean temperatures that were much warmer than average.

Strong Atlantic and Pacific storms buckle long-term trends

Strong storms buckled trends in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in mid-January 2016, and many scientists pointed to climate change. Hurricane Alex was the first Atlantic hurricane to form in January in nearly a century, and the strongest January hurricane on record, and Hurricane Pali became the earliest named storm on record in the Central Pacific—storms of this magnitude usually begin to form in July.


Rare January hurricanes gained strength in near-record warm waters

Alex formed over waters that are usually not warm enough to support hurricane activity, but in January 2016 the waters were close to record high temperatures. Pali’s strength and early formation were also fed by much warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the Pacific. A combination of climate change and the 2015-2016 extreme El Nino event heated the waters and fueled the two storms, which one meteorologist said would have been a “vanishingly small probability more than 30 years ago.”[1]