Cyclone Dora, in the South Indian basin, was estimated to have 75 knot or about 86 mile per hour maximum sustained winds in the latest advisory from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. That's significantly stronger than any storm yet in 2007, and Dora is expected to intensify further. The storm does not pose any immediate threat to land, although a turn to the west could take it toward La Reunion and perhaps ultimately Madagascar and the African mainland.
In any event, Dora is a reminder that tropical weather is about to get pretty fiesty in the Southern Hemisphere as we move into February and March. Last year the Southern Hemisphere witnessed the extremely destructive Cyclone Larry (March), the extremely intense Cyclone Glenda (March), and still more intense and possibly record-breaking Cyclone Monica (April). While the 2006 hurricane season was much calmer than expected in the Atlantic, the Southern Hemisphere was very active, and it will be very interesting to see how this year compares.
Following along this line of thought, I just realized that the Joint Typhoon Warning Center has finally made its storm data for 2005 available (took long enough). As you can see, there were 6 Category 4 and 5 storms (greater than 115 knot winds) in the Southern Hemisphere in 2005 (Meena, Nancy, Olaf, Percy, Ingrid, and Adeline-Juliet). In 2006, meanwhile, it looks like there were also 6 (Monica, Xavier, Carina, Floyd, Glenda, and Bondo), although Xavier, Floyd, and Bondo were relatively weak Cat 4s. Again, it will be interesting to see how 2007 compares to these two previous years. Typically, the Southern Hemisphere hosts roughly 1/3 of the global tropical cyclone activity.
I certainly won't be blogging about every storm this year, whether in the Southern Hemisphere or elsewhere. But I'll be monitoring them closely, and drawing attention to the ones that warrant it. I hope all you weather nerds out there will tune in....
UPDATE: Anti-hockey stick blogger Steve McIntyre snipes at this post here, writing, "After the disappointing 2006 hurricane season, Chris Mooney is waiting with bated breath for 2007 hurricanes. The first 2007 SH hurricane got its own thread." Actually, the 2006 season was only "disappointing" (whatever that means) in the Atlantic. The globe was plenty busy for strong hurricanes, as evidenced by the fact that there were 19 Cat 4 and 5 storms even though none appeared in the basin closest to home for most of us.
As for "bated breath," I didn't know there was anything wrong with being interested in what kind of weather the new year will bring, or how it will compare to previous hurricane seasons. Kinda scientifically relevant right now, don't you think? Is the insurance industry also waiting with "bated breath"?
Only alarmists pay attention to hurricanes, Chris.
The 2006-2007 SH season does not look particularly active to me so far - in Table 2-2 in that report you linked, you can see that the 1981-2005 average for Jul-Jan tropical cyclones is about 12.4 . This season has had 10. (5 of which reached hurricane strength, and 2 of which reached major hurricane strength (both reaching the cat 4 divider you're so interested in)) . However the July to January average is slightly less than half the seasonal average (12.4 compared to 27.8) .
I didn't mean to say it was the first hurricane, I used the word "serious" because the other two storms (by my reckoning) only reached 65 knots for one brief advisory...clear Dora is going to sustain hurricane strength and probably get beyond Cat 1.