The existence of a rotating storm with an eye in the South Atlantic means that regional waters are now warm enough to generate the kind of moist upward flows of air that trigger tropical storms and hurricanes. Whether or not this will become a permanent weather feature is unknown. But it is known that ocean surfaces worldwide are warming, and therefore that incidents like this will become more common in the future.
Not since 1966 has a storm of this type struck the South American coast. Not since 1991 has a storm with the structure of a hurricane appeared in the South Atlantic. If it has sustained winds above 74 mph, the Brazil hurricane qualifies as a Category 1 storm, the least powerful hurricane. If, indeed, the wind readings are correct–the U.S. has no hurricane watch aircraft in the area, and Brazil has no means to analyze hurricanes, so the actual state of this storm is open to question. Brazilian officials say that it is not a hurricane or tropical storm. U.S. officials disagree.
What is known is that the storm is striking the southern coast of Brazil, and one child and seven fishermen, so far, are missing. It is also probable that it is the largest storm of this type ever seen in the region. Earlier records are sketchy, but there is no evidence that either of the earlier storms were as powerful.
As the oceans warm and the stratosphere cools due to global warming, the potential for more, and more powerful, storms rises worldwide. The possibility of a super-hurricane taking place in the traditional hurricane alley of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico is now substantial.
Another major ocean mystery is why ships and planes continue to be lost in the area known as the Bermuda Triangle. This is one of the best books we’ve ever seen on the subject: extensively researched and extensively illustrated.
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