Before crashing into Fiji, Cyclone Winston became the strongest southern cyclone on record thanks to ocean heat
Tropical Cyclone Winston—a Category 5 cyclone with winds measuring up to 185 mph—struct Fiji on February 20 and 21, 2016 as the most powerful storm on record in the Southern Hemisphere. Weaving a path of destruction across the entire country, Cyclone Winston left hundreds of thousands of Fijians displaced, without water, shelter, food or livelihood. There were 44 reported fatalities and the Government of Fiji estimates the storm affected almost 350,000 people, or 40 percent of Fiji’s total population.,
Exceptionally warm ocean temperatures fueled the destructive storm
“Exceptionally warm” ocean temperatures 4.5°F (2.5°C) above average, driven by El Niño and climate change, allowed Winston to intensify quickly and maintain its Category 5-level strength. Winston was also by far the most intense cyclone ever to strike Fiji, and its path was unusual, crossing the island nation from east to west, leaving many residents unprepared.