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Somerset Squall

Intense Tropical Cyclone Anais

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The first tropical cyclone of the South Indian Ocean cyclone season 2012-13 has formed almost a month before the seasons start date. 01S is located 90 miles west-southwest of Diego Garcia and is moving towards the west-southwest, steered by a ridge to the south and southeast. This ridge is expected to remain the primary steering influence for 01S over the next few days. 01S has well defined banding features wrapping into the well defined LLC. Cloud tops have warmed a little from this afternoon, but this is probably just a convective lull, common in newly formed systems. 01S should strengthen quite decently over the next few days as shear is low and waters are warm. The upper level outflow pattern is particularly impressive, which favours rising, unstable air and falling pressure, allowing strengthening. In around 3-4 days time, 01S will move over cooler waters and increasing shear, inducing weakening. Before this happens, JTWC forecast a peak of 60kts. By day 5, 01S should be nearing northern Madagascar, but the storm should be weaker by then.

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01S is strengthening rapidly. It has been given the name Anais by MeteoFrance. JTWC last update (from 3am) puts Anais' intensity at 45kts, but looking at satellite imagery I expect it will be raised to at least 55kts at the next update. Anais has developed a central dense overcast which has recently developed an eye feature, clear to see on satellite imagery. This is impressive for a cyclone so early on.

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Sustained winds have actually increased to 65kts, making Anais a cat 1 hurricane equivalent on the SS scale. Further strengthening is expected, and JTWC's estimated peak of 80kts may end up being a little low IMO

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Anais has continued to strengthen rapidly and is now a 105kt cat 3 on the SS scale. The eye is well defined, embedded in a circular central dense overcast flanked by strong banding. Anais is expected to become a cat 4 in the next 24hrs as it continues southwestwards. The southwesterly track will soon bring Anais into cooler waters and increased shear however, starting a weakening trend.

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Interesting thoughts from Jeff Masters on Anais:

It's springtime in the Southern Hemisphere, where an unusual tropical cyclone has formed--Tropical Cyclone Anais, which hit Category 3 strength with 120 mph winds. According to Meteo France in La Reunion Island, Anais is the earliest major hurricane to form during the Southwest Indian Ocean's tropical cyclone season, which typically runs from November to May. Anais' formation in mid-October is akin to getting a major hurricane in the Atlantic during April, something which has never occurred (the earliest major hurricane on record in the Atlantic occurred on May 21, 1951.) Anais is the second earliest hurricane of any kind to form so early in the Southwest Indian Ocean tropical cyclone season, after Tropical Cyclone Blanche of October 10, 1969. Anais may reach Category 4 strength before cooler waters and increased wind shear weaken the storm as it approaches Madagascar.

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Anais' dvorak numbers suggested Anais reached cat 4 intensity last night with winds of 115kts. Anais has since weakened as it has started an eyewall replacement cycle, evidenced by a double eyewall on satellite imagery. As a result, winds have fallen to a 100kts, still a powerful cat 3. By the time the EWRC completes, Anais will be moving over cooler water and increased shear as the cyclone continues southwestwards, so re-strengthening is not expected.

It has been confirmed that Anais is the earliest "Intense Tropical Cyclone" on record for this basin.

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Anais is in fairly quick decline. Sustained winds have fallen to 55kts as shear has risen and the cyclone has reached cooler water. Anais has turned westwards towards Madagascar but there is likely to be little left of Anais if it does reach the coastline. The more likely scenario is dissipation before hand.

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Anais is gone, but not forgotten. A record breaker. What a start to the South Indian Ocean season (which doesn't officially start for another couple weeks!).

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