Super temperatures strengthen Hurricane Beryl as it hits the Caribbean

By Sarah Morland

(Reuters) – Powerful Hurricane Beryl became the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season and the earliest storm on record to reach the strongest Category 5 classification, before weakening to Category 4 as it headed towards Jamaica on Wednesday .

Record sea temperatures that allow tropical storms to grow stronger, driven by human-caused climate change and cyclical weather patterns, are fueling what scientists say is shaping up to be a very dangerous hurricane season .


A Category 5 hurricane is the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, bringing winds of 157 mph (252 kph) or higher, which can cause catastrophic damage including the destruction of homes and infrastructure.

Since 1960, only 30 Atlantic hurricanes have reached Category 5, with 2005 – the year the deadly Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans – the record for the most recorded in a single season, at four.


Hurricane Beryl is the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.

Anne-Claire Fontaine, science officer for the agency, said the reason Beryl developed so early in the season is that the MDR is reaching its hottest temperatures on record.

Scientists say a streak of record high temperatures in the North Atlantic since the beginning of last year would be highly unlikely without climate change, driven by man-made fossil fuel emissions.

Higher water temperatures allow storms to intensify more quickly, and sustaining a tropical cyclone requires ocean temperatures of at least 26.5°C (79.7°F). According to NOAA, the northern Caribbean coastal water temperature is hovering around 29.4°C (85°F).


Beryl is currently forecast to barrel over the Caribbean island of Jamaica on Wednesday, where it could dump as much as 12 inches (30 cm) of rain, skimming the Dominican Republic and Haiti along the southern coast of the island of Hispaniola.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, has encouraged residents to strengthen their roofs and windows and to stock up on candles and batteries, drinking water and canned foods. In Haiti, many people displaced by gang conflict are particularly vulnerable.

The Cayman Islands, northwest of Jamaica, are also in Beryl’s current path, and further west, the Yucatan peninsula of Belize and Mexico and the Gulf coast. Hurricanes usually weaken as they move over land.


Beryl is the strongest storm to hit the southeastern Caribbean in two decades, when Ivan 2004 smashed into Grenada as a Category 3, damaging most of its buildings, it damaged Jamaica as a Category 4 and strengthened to Category 5 over western Cuba.

Ivan weakened before it hit the United States but spawned more than a hundred tornadoes. It killed around 90 people and caused more than $20 billion in damages.

On Monday, Beryl made landfall on small islands in the eastern Caribbean, wrecked fishing boats in Barbados, cut off drinking water in St Lucia, downed power lines and killed two people in Grenada and St Vincent.

It was heading towards Jamaica as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday.


As the Caribbean prepares to face a devastating hurricane season, regional leaders have been calling for better funding options so governments can invest more to protect their populations from climate change. get worse

The heavily indebted and tourism-dependent Caribbean states have long called on wealthy nations and the world’s top polluters to do more to meet their commitments to meet emissions targets, climate adaptation funds provide and consider debt relief.

However, a Reuters investigation found that billions in funds sent to help developing nations combat climate change have been diverted to rich nations.


Hurricane seasons are annual periods when tropical storms, driven by strong ocean winds, are most likely to form warm and moist seas. In the Atlantic Ocean this usually lasts from June to November, peaking in late summer.

The Atlantic is also home to the Hurricane Alley, or Main Development Region (MDR), a stretch of warmer water that stretches from West Africa to much of the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and the southern United States.

On average, a hurricane season produces 14 named storms (winds of at least 39 miles per hour or 63 kilometers per hour), seven of which become hurricanes (winds over 74 mph or 119 kph) and three of which become ” big,” with wind speeds. over 111 mph (178 kph). But as ocean temperatures break new records, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned of an “unusual” 2024 Atlantic season and is forecasting 17 to 25 named tropical storms, eight to 13 hurricanes and between four and seven major hurricanes.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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