Tropical Cyclone Faraji
Tropical Cyclone Faraji in the South Indian Ocean on Monday morning, February 8, 2021, when Faraji was an intensifying category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. (Image credit: NASA Worldview)

Earth’s first category 5 tropical storm of 2021 is Tropical Cyclone Faraji in the southwest Indian Ocean.

Faraji took advantage of low wind shear of 5-10 knots and warm ocean temperatures of 28-29 degrees Celsius (82-84°F) to peak at category 5 strength with 160 mph winds and a central pressure of 920 mb at 1 pm EST Monday, February 8, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Faraji’s intensity was estimated via the standard Dvorak technique, which uses infrared satellite imagery. In addition, 3-km resolution wind data from the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instrument on Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite revealed average winds of 157 mph in the southwestern quadrant of Faraji’s eyewall.

Fortunately, Faraji is over 500 miles from any land areas, and will pose hazards to marine interests and not to people this week. The storm is expected to gradually weaken as it moves eastward and then recurves to the south and west later this week, falling below hurricane strength by Saturday. By late next week, it is possible that Fariji will pose a threat to Madagascar and the nearby islands.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Tracks of all category 5 tropical cyclones in the South Indian Ocean, as catalogued by NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website. The position where Tropical Cyclone Faraji of 2021 achieved category 5 strength is marked with an asterisk.

South Indian Ocean tropical cyclone history

NOAA’s hurricane history database lists 17 other tropical cyclones in the South Indian Ocean that have achieved category 5 strength since 1989; accurate satellite data in the region extends only back to about 1990. The strongest of these storms, Tropical Cyclone Fantala in 2016, peaked with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph and a central pressure of 907 mb pressure. Fantala did not make landfall, though its eyewall did affect the Farquhar Atoll while the storm was at category 5 strength.

No South Indian Ocean tropical cyclone has ever been recorded to make landfall at category 5 strength. At least 17 have made landfall at category 4 strength: two in mainland Africa, seven in Madagascar, and eight in western Australia.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Global category 5 tropical cyclones from 1990 – 2020, as rated by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Earth averaged 5.3 category 5 storms per year between 1990 and 2020, according to ratings made by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The quality of the Cat 5 database is too poor and the time series of decent data on these storms too short to make definitive conclusions about how climate change may be affecting these most fearsome of storms. However, climate change is expected to make category 5 storms stronger and more numerous in the coming decades.

World hammered by record 50 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2020

Website visitors can comment on “Eye on the Storm” posts (see below). Please read our Comments Policy prior to posting. (See all EOTS posts here. Sign up to receive notices of new postings here.)

Topics: Weather Extremes
21 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Kevin Trenberth
4 months ago

Depends how you define season. Yasa was a cat 5 hurricane that went thru Fiji with a lot of devastation but in mid December 2020. That is the SH season.
Kevin

Skyepony
4 months ago

Faraji
comment image

gust
gust
4 months ago

wow can’t belive this is going to happen be ware

Skyepony
4 months ago

These are both Faraji at 2214z
comment image
comment image

Last edited 4 months ago by Skyepony (mod)
slogoman
4 months ago
Reply to  Skyepony

oh my god

benjamin
4 months ago

is that really u jelly?

jelly
4 months ago

ok good.

benjamin
4 months ago
Reply to  jelly

omg

benjamin
4 months ago

the 2020 and 2021

benjamin
4 months ago

ok so why u put that meme up thare

benjamin
4 months ago

cool

Skyepony
4 months ago

About four hours old..sun setting on Faraji.
comment image

Patti Ortagus
Patti Ortagus
4 months ago
Reply to  Skyepony

Sky, I can’t get away from 6 months ago on Disqus. Is this finally it?

Matt
Matt
4 months ago
Reply to  Patti Ortagus

try the link on the post at the top

Skyepony
4 months ago
Reply to  Patti Ortagus

Still going on in the “newest” wu disqus.. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/wund/weather_underground/newest/

Waiting for disqus to be implemented here. Looks like the current comments here are the best chance at being archived into the next platform. Afraid we lost 6 months of archives there closing that previous thread. That spot is where it goes back every time tried.

Patrap
Patrap
4 months ago

2021 to 2020…

At the old wu cane frat house..

4sv5qm.jpg
Last edited 4 months ago by Patrap
O smith
O smith
4 months ago
Reply to  Patrap

get a shirt at the door, no admission without

Nrtiwlnvragn
Nrtiwlnvragn
4 months ago

Why is this the first time I remember hearing about the Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite being able to measure windspeed? Have never heard of it used in the Atlantic Basin. Or, my memory is fading fast……..

Last edited 4 months ago by Nrtiwlnvragn
TROPICALCYCLONEALERT
TROPICALCYCLONEALERT
4 months ago
Reply to  Nrtiwlnvragn

SAR isn’t really used operationally by the NHC, though the JTWC does sporadically make use of it.

Link to product – https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/socd/mecb/sar/AKDEMO_products/APL_winds/tropical/index.html