So it seems once again South Africans find themselves on
Mainstream media has already picked up on a tropical formation that is likely to occur within the next 24 hours within the Mozambique Channel. An area of disturbed weather currently exists within a large area of low pressure inside the channel. This broad, but also cut-off low pressure area is forecast to deep by the global models, with indications that the area may develop into a tropical storm over the next day or two.
Tropical cyclones are common in the Indian Ocean, and a few usually form within the channel every year – so why are the media focusing on this potential storm? Well, unlike majority of tropical cyclones that form in the Mozambique Channel, the models are indicating that this one may have an influence directly on South African weather. Most storms in that area tend to die out quickly before reach land, or swing south and miss any land. Either that, or they make landfall in the central areas of Mozambique, usually as fairly weak storms.
The forecast for this system takes the storm further south than most, and makes landfall in the southern portions of Mozambique. There are no models I could find that show a direct South African landfall, however, due to the proximity — should the models be correct in their forecast, we could see heavy rainfall taking place along the northern areas of the east coast of the country, along with a likelihood of rough seas and the potential for increased winds.
The Euro model is showing significantly stronger winds than the GFS model seems to be forecasting, the euro is suggesting winds around 100km/h while the storm approaches the coast of Mozambique, while the GFS wind probably chart is only showing slight chances of winds exceeding 30kt (as seen below). Only time will be able to tell exactly how strong the system shall get if it develops, and would rather wait on official advisories before relying too much on the current model data that is available to the public.
The storm’s forecast does not look very strong at this stage, but the forecasting of tropical systems in general is difficult. The Indian Ocean and Mozambique Channel in particular seems to have very little model data historically, compared to areas such as the North Atlantic.
Both the GFS and the EURO models show the system developing into a tropical storm. With the intensities shown on both models, it seems like a Tropical Cyclone strength storm is unlikely, but with the SSTs what they are you can never count it out (Wind Shear and Dry Air play major roles in intensification potential too). Sea surface temps in the channel are extremely conducive for tropical development and would be able to support a stronger storm if wind shear and dry air played along.
South Africa has historically had a couple of severe tropical cyclone effects felt, the last of which was Tropical Cyclone Eline back in 2000. However, from the current models the effects of the storm, should it develop as forecast would be less significant, unless something changes.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the area of disturbance and give any updates should the situation change significantly.