Cyclone Freddy traveled nearly 5,500 miles across the southern Indian Ocean and made a pair of landfalls in Madagascar and Mozambique at the end of February. Now, over a month after its formation off the coast of southern Indonesia, Freddy has likely set a new world record for the longest-lasting tropical cyclone as into Mozambique.
Saturday marks the 34th day Freddy or its remnants have been tracked since it first became a tropical cyclone on Feb. 6. That means Cyclone Freddy has likely broken the record for the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on Earth. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the record to beat was set by Hurricane/Typhoon John in 1994 when it spent 31 days tracking across the Central and Western Pacific Ocean.
An expert committee at the WMO will conduct a formal investigation after Cyclone Freddy dissipates to determine whether John's record was officially broken.
Cyclone Freddy's historic track
Freddy is one of only four tropical cyclones on record that have traveled across the entire southern Indian Ocean, according to NOAA's historical hurricane tracks database. It peaked at Category 5 hurricane-equivalent intensity during the weekend of Feb. 18-19 – only the 20th tropical cyclone to do so in the South Indian Ocean since 1989.
Cyclone Freddy turned deadly as it crashed ashore in Madagascar on Feb. 21, then continued westward and made a rare landfall in the southern African country of Mozambique on Feb. 24. Freddy was blamed for the deaths of 21 people across both nations, the Associated Press reported.
The remnant circulation of Freddy survived its land interaction with Mozambique, then looped back eastward and re-emerged over the Mozambique Channel between southern Africa and Madagascar, where it reorganized into a tropical cyclone once again on March 3, about a week after its initial Mozambique landfall.
Freddy approaches another world record for its intensity, duration
In terms of Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE – an integrated metric that accounts for the frequency, intensity and duration of tropical cyclones – Freddy is already the all-time record holder for the Southern Hemisphere and is now approaching the world record.
According to Phil Klotzbach, a tropical weather expert at Colorado State University, Freddy already surpassed the ACE of Cyclone Fantala in 2016, the previous Southern Hemisphere record holder.
Only one tropical cyclone on record since 1980 generated more ACE than Freddy has so far: Hurricane/Typhoon Ioke in 2006, which was a long-lived and intense storm that tracked across the Central and Western Pacific Ocean. Like Freddy, Ioke peaked at Category 5-equivalent intensity, though its journey only lasted 17 days.
As of Friday, Freddy's ACE stood at 79.4 units, only 5.9 ACE units away from breaking the world record of 85.3 ACE units held by Hurricane/Typhoon Ioke.
Freddy's ACE even surpassed that of Category 5 Hurricane Irma in 2017, according to Klotzbach.
The only two Atlantic hurricanes with a higher lifetime ACE than Cyclone Freddy were Hurricane Three in 1899 and Hurricane Ivan in 2004.