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Historic Cyclone Freddy Sets New Record and Causes Devastation in Indian Ocean

Tropical Cyclone Freddy has made history by becoming the longest-lived tropical cyclone ever recorded in any of Earth’s oceans.[0] The deadly cyclone has set a new record, lasting 37 days and breaking the previous record of 31 days set by Hurricane John in 1994.[1] Freddy is also the first tropical cyclone ever to experience seven phases of rapid intensification (RI) over its lifetime, according to satellite estimates.[2]

Freddy began its journey on February 6, making its way across the Indian Ocean before making its first landfall on February 21 in Madagascar.[3] After passing through Madagascar, the storm made landfall in Mozambique on February 23 before briefly heading back out to sea, narrowly missing Madagascar again before turning around to hit Mozambique again on March 11.[3] From there, Freddy made its way to Malawi where it caused significant flooding and mudslides.[2]

Freddy has released an astonishing amount of energy during its long life, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).[3] The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which tracks wind speed data over time, is used by scientists to measure this.[0] By February 23, Freddy already had an ACE index of 66, making it the most powerful cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.[3] Freddy has now set a new record with an ACE of 87.01 units, breaking the previous record of 85.27 units by Hurricane Ioke in 2006.[2]

The cyclone has caused immense destruction in the region, with over 225 people killed in Malawi and 20 in Mozambique.[4] Over 4,000 people have been displaced from their homes and 45,000 are still holed up in shelters, with about 1,300 square kilometres (800 square miles) still under water.[4] Malawi is also struggling to respond to an earlier outbreak of cholera and ongoing COVID-19 cases across the nation.[5]

In the wake of Cyclone Freddy, the region is in desperate need of aid and support. The destruction caused by the cyclone is a reminder of the need to take stronger action on climate change and invest in disaster preparedness to protect vulnerable populations from the dangers of extreme weather events.

0. “Freddy becomes longest-lived tropical cyclone on record” The Washington Post, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2023/03/07/cyclone-freddy-indian-ocean-hurricane

1. “More than 220 killed by record-breaking Cyclone Freddy” Al Jazeera English, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/15/more-than-220-killed-by-record-breaking-cyclone-freddy

2. “The cyclone that lived longest: How Freddy broke all kinds of records” Down To Earth Magazine, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/natural-disasters/the-cyclone-that-lived-longest-how-freddy-broke-all-kinds-of-records-88258

3. “Deadly cyclone ‘Freddy' may be the longest-lived and most energetic storm ever recorded” Livescience.com, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.livescience.com/deadly-cyclone-freddy-may-be-the-longest-lived-and-most-energetic-storm-ever-recorded

4. “Malawi president attends funeral of cyclone victims” Africanews English, 16 Mar. 2023, https://www.africanews.com/2023/03/16/malawi-president-attends-funeral-of-cyclone-victims/

5. “Today's top news: Tropical Storm Freddy, Syria” OCHA, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.unocha.org/story/todays-top-news-tropical-storm-freddy-syria

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