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2019–20 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season

The 2019–20 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season is a current event of the annual cycle of tropical cyclone and subtropical cyclone formation. The season officially began on November 15, however, the formation of the first system—Zone of Disturbed Weather 01—occurred on July 22, 2019, well before the official start of the season. It will end on April 30, 2020, with the exception of Mauritius and the Seychelles, for which it will end on May 15, 2020. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical and subtropical cyclones form in the basin, which is west of 90°E and south of the Equator. Tropical and subtropical cyclones in this basin are monitored by the Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre in Réunion.

2019–20 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season
2019-2020 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season summary.png
Season summary map
Seasonal boundaries
First system formedJuly 22, 2019
Last system dissipatedSeason ongoing
Strongest storm
NameAmbali
 • Maximum winds220 km/h (140 mph)
(10-minute sustained)
 • Lowest pressure930 hPa (mbar)
Seasonal statistics
Total disturbances3
Total depressions2
Total storms2
Tropical cyclones2
Intense tropical cyclones1
Very intense tropical cyclones1
Total fatalitiesNone
Total damageNone
Related articles
South-West Indian Ocean tropical cyclone seasons
2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22

For the second consecutive year in a row, the first tropical cyclone formed before the official start of the season. Two storms formed in the month of December: Severe Tropical Storm Belna on December 2 and Very Intense Tropical Cyclone Ambali a day later. Ambali was the first very intense tropical cyclone in the basin since Fantala in 2016.

Seasonal forecastsEdit

The season began with one of the strongest positive phases of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in the past 40 years. Météo-France Réunion expects that the positive anomalies will decay slowly throughout austral summer, having a prominent impact on the cyclone season through mid-February. As a result, storm activity was not forecast to begin until December—the month in which the monsoonal flow becomes established in the western half of the basin (the dry conditions in the central and eastern Indian Ocean induced by the IOD would prevent typical early-season storms). With warm and wet conditions expected in the western Indian Ocean, cyclone formation is expected to be enhanced west of 70°E.[1]

A near-average eight to eleven storms are expected throughout the course of the season, with the possibility of a higher than average number of these attaining Tropical Cyclone strength with winds of 120 km/h (75 mph) or greater as a result of favorable upper-level divergence in the western region of the basin. Activity is expected to be focused west of the Chagos Archipelago, presenting an increased threat to land. A wide range of track types and motions are expected, although predominantly southerly storm motion will be favored.[1]

In November, the Mauritius Meteorological Services forecasted eight to ten named storms and emphasized that storm formation would be more likely west of Diego Garcia.[2]

Seasonal summaryEdit

Tropical cyclone scales#Comparisons across basins 

On July 22, Zone of Disturbed Weather 01 formed and started the cyclone season. The disturbance failed to organize into a tropical depression and dissipated on July 25. Tropical activity came to a halt until December 2, when Tropical Disturbance 02 formed. A day later, Tropical Depression 03 formed and was later named Ambali. On December 5, Tropical Storm Ambali rapidly intensified, becoming the first very intense tropical cyclone since Fantala in 2016. Tropical Disturbance 02 then became Belna, and Belna continued to intensify into a Severe Tropical Storm.

SystemsEdit

Zone of Disturbed Weather 01Edit

Zone of Disturbed Weather
DurationJuly 22 – July 25
Peak intensity45 km/h (30 mph) (10-min)  1001 hPa (mbar)

In mid-July, a broad wind circulation developed over the central Indian Ocean, accompanied by deep convection. Some computer models suggested the possibility of a southern segment of this system organizing into a tropical cyclone; Météo-France (MFR) initially estimated a "very low" chance of a moderate tropical storm materializing from the large circulation near Diego Garcia.[3] Due to strong wind shear, the environment remained unfavorable for tropical development.[4] On July 22, Météo-France began monitoring the system as a zone of disturbed weather; the system's forward motion was initially southward.[5] A temporary decrease in wind shear on 23 July provided a brief period conducive for tropical development,[6] and the system strengthened to its peak winds of 45 km/h (30 mph) that day.[5] However, the disturbance's center of circulation remained ill-defined and lacking showers and thunderstorms.[7] Although the disturbance was forecast to initially strengthen into a tropical storm,[7] an increase in wind shear prevented the storm from consolidating further about the center of circulation and caused the overall wind field to disorganize.[8][9] The system curved towards the west on July 24 and eventually degenerated into a remnant circulation northeast of Rodrigues by the 25 July;[5] these remnants persisted for another day before dissipating entirely.[10][11]

Tropical Cyclone BelnaEdit

Tropical cyclone (MFR)
Category 3 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
DurationDecember 2 – Present
Peak intensity155 km/h (100 mph) (10-min)  955 hPa (mbar)

MFR began highlighting the potential for tropical cyclone development in their daily bulletins on 25 November, noting an increase in shower activity west of the Seychelles.[12] Aided by the passage of a Kelvin wave and a favorable window in the Madden–Julian oscillation, a broad trough of low pressure began to take shape within the storm activity, extending across the equator.[13][14] Projections from computer models remained in disagreement over the system's future, complicated by the concurrent development of a tropical disturbance in the northwestern Indian Ocean along the same trough.[14] A loosely-defined wind circulation was detected 263 km (163 mi) south of Mahe, Seychelles on 29 November, offset from convection.[15] Over the following days, this circulation tightened within an environment moderately conducive for tropical development.[16][17] Météo-France declared the system as a zone of disturbed weather on 2 December; at the time the system had drifted west from its point of origin.[18] Although the storm was better organized and the environment conducive for intensification, the storm's wind field initially remained elongated and rainfall remained north of the storm's center.[19][20][21] The disturbance become a tropical depression on 5 December, attended by an increase in rainbands and the return of convection at the center of circulation;[22][23] at 18:00 UTC that day, the system was upgraded to Moderate Tropical Storm Belna.[18]

Belna was upgraded to severe tropical storm status early on 6 December.[18] Around the same time, a cloud-obscured eye briefly became apparent in microwave satellite imagery. Due to a strengthening area of high pressure to its east, Belna began to curve from its initial westward drift to a more directed southwestward trajectory.[24] After a brief period of strengthening,[18] Belna's central dense overcast remained largely unchanged throughout 6 December before signs of resumed intensification emerged by the day's end, followed by the development of another eye.[25][26][27] With the storm's eye becoming better defined, MFR upgraded Belna to a tropical cyclone early on 7 December. Hot towers were detected atop and within the storm's radius of maximum winds, suggesting the onset of a more accelerated rate of intensification.[28] Belna began to weaken to a Category 2 cyclone yet again due to increasing wind shear, but began to re-intensify early on December 8 according to infrared imagery. On December 9, Bella made landfall near Mayotte and soon began to rapidly weaken, dropping below hurricane level on the Saffir–Simpson scale on the next day.

Météo Madagascar first issued green alerts for the Madagascan districts of Diana, Sava, and Sofia on 4 December based on a high probability of Belna impacting northeastern Madagascar. Accordingly, cyclone response measures were activated by the National Office for Risk and Disaster Management and humanitarian organizations across northern Madagascar.[29] Green alerts were later extended to encompass five districts.[30] A cyclone pre-alert was issued for Mayotte on 6 December,[31] succeeded by an orange alert the following day.[32] Civil security personnel from mainland France and Reunion, some from the National Gendarmerie, were sent to Mayotte to aid storm preparation efforts there.[33][34] Shelters were opened in several Mayotte communes on 7 December.[35]

Very Intense Tropical Cyclone AmbaliEdit

Very intense tropical cyclone (MFR)
Category 4 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
DurationDecember 3 – December 8
Peak intensity220 km/h (140 mph) (10-min)  930 hPa (mbar)

While Belna was gradually developing out of an extended trough of low pressure, another area of convection formed along the same trough between the Seychelles and the Chagos Archipelago in early December.[36] The system organized quickly, attaining formative rainbands around a coalescing center of circulation on 3 December.[37] At 06:00 UTC, the system was classified as a Zone of Disturbed Weather. A day later, the system was upgraded to a tropical depression following a significant increase in convection near its center.[38][39] Steered by a high-pressure area centered over the southern Indian Ocean, the tropical depression moved south.[40] The quick organization continued into 5 December, and MFR named the system Moderate Tropical Storm Ambali as a central dense overcast emerged;[41] Ambali intensified into a Severe Tropical Storm a few hours later.[38] Buoyed by a highly favorable environment with waters between 29–30 °C (84–86 °F), explosive intensification ensued, accompanied by the formation of an eye.[42][43] At 18:00 UTC on 5 December, MFR upgraded Ambali to intense tropical cyclone status following a sharp 75 km/h (45 mph) increase in the storm's winds in 3 hours.[38] The cyclone was highly compact, with a distinct eye 15 km (9 mi) in diameter surrounded by cold cloud tops.[44][45]

Six hours later, Ambali was reclassified as a very intense tropical cyclone,[38] the highest rating on the MFR's intensity scale and the first in the basin since Fantala in 2016.[46][47] The agency estimated maximum 10-minute sustained winds of 220 km/h (140 mph) and a minimum pressure of 930 mbar (hPa; 27.46 inHg);[38] concurrently, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) assessed peak 1-minute sustained winds of 250 km/h (155 mph), making Ambali a high-end category 4-equivalent on the Saffir–Simpson scale. The cyclone's eye had contracted further to a diameter of 9 km (5 mi) early on 6 December at the time of peak intensity.[48] Based on JTWC data, Ambali's winds increased by 185 km/h (115 mph) in 24 hours, marking the fastest 24-hour intensification recorded in the Southern Hemisphere since 1980 and topping the old record set by Cyclone Ernie in 2017.[49][50] A gradual weakening trend soon succeeded the rapid intensification episode as indicated by a clouding-over of the small eye.[48] Within a few hours of Ambali's peak strength, the eye was no longer apparent on infrared satellite imagery; dry air became wrapped close to the core of the cyclone's compact circulation.[51] Impaired further by an increase in wind shear,[52][53] Ambali's strength quickly diminished throughout 6 December, and by the following day, its winds fell below tropical cyclone thresholds.[38] Despite otherwise inhibiting environmental factors, the eye reappeared for a two-hour period before fully succumbing to the dry air and 55 km/h (35 mph) wind shear.[54] Rapid weakening soon proceeded, and by mid-day on 7 December, the storm's coldest cloud tops were displaced east of the center of circulation; Ambali's motion also became erratic as winds in the lower levels of the troposphere began to govern its track.[55] On 8 December, Ambali degenerated to a remnant low and MFR issued their last advisory on the dissipating system.[56]

Storm namesEdit

Within the South-West Indian Ocean, tropical depressions and subtropical depressions that are judged to have 10-minute sustained wind speeds of 65 km/h (40 mph) by the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center on La Réunion Island, France (RSMC La Réunion) are usually assigned a name. However, it is the Sub-Regional Tropical Cyclone Advisory Centers in Mauritius and Madagascar who name the systems. The Sub-Regional Tropical Cyclone Advisory Center in Mauritius names a storm should it intensify into a moderate tropical storm between 55°E and 90°E. If instead, a cyclone intensifies into a moderate tropical storm between 30°E and 55°E then the Sub-Regional Tropical Cyclone Advisory Center in Madagascar assigns the appropriate name to the storm.

Beginning from the 2016–17 season, name lists within the South-West Indian Ocean will be rotated on a triennial basis. Storm names are only used once, so any storm name used this year will be removed from rotation and replaced with a new name for the 2022–23 season. The unused names are expected to be reused in the list for the 2022–23 season.[57] All of the names are the same with the exception of Ambali, Belna, Calvinia, Diane, Esami and Francisco, which replaced Abela, Bransby, Carlos, Dineo, Enawo and Fernando from the 2016–17 season.

  • Ambali
  • Belna (active)
  • Calvinia (unused)
  • Diane (unused)
  • Esami (unused)
  • Francisco (unused)
  • Gabekile (unused)
  • Herold (unused)
  • Irondro (unused)
  • Jeruto (unused)
  • Kundai (unused)
  • Lisebo (unused)
  • Michel (unused)
  • Nousra (unused)
  • Olivier (unused)
  • Pokera (unused)
  • Quincy (unused)
  • Rebaone (unused)
  • Salama (unused)
  • Tristan (unused)
  • Ursula (unused)
  • Violet (unused)
  • Wilson (unused)
  • Xila (unused)
  • Yekela (unused)
  • Zania (unused)

Seasonal effectsEdit

This table lists all of the tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones that were monitored during the 2019–20 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season. Information on their intensity, duration, name, areas affected, primarily comes from RSMC La Réunion. Death and damage reports come from either press reports or the relevant national disaster management agency while the damage totals are given in 2019 USD.

Name Dates active Peak classification Sustained
wind speeds
Pressure Areas affected Damage
(USD)
Deaths Refs
01 July 22 – 25 Zone of disturbed weather 45 km/h (28 mph) 1001 hPa (29.56 inHg) None None None
Belna December 2 – Present Tropical cyclone 155 km/h (100 mph) 955 hPa (28.35 inHg) Seychelles, Mayotte, Comoros, Madagascar None None
Ambali December 3 – 8 Very intense tropical cyclone 220 km/h (140 mph) 930 hPa (27.46 inHg) None None None
Season aggregates
3 systems July 22 –
Season ongoing
220 km/h (140 mph) 930 hPa (27.46 inHg) None None

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit