‘Fujiwhara Effect’ explained

CW39

Meteorologist Carrigan Chauvin-KIAH

HOUSTONTexas (KIAH)  – We are approaching the statistical peak of hurricane season. Meaning, at any given time this month there is likely to be not one, but multiple storms to track. The Atlantic Basin, Caribbean, and even the Gulf of Mexico may become crowded at times.  

NASA IMAGES

What happens when storms get too close? Not to us on land, but to EACH OTHER! 

Time and time again we see a phenomenon called the Fujiwhara effect happen as the tropics get congested this time of year. Fujiwhara is when two different tropical cyclones feel the impacts from each other.  

Three things can occur as these systems start to ‘dance’: 

  1. The storms can rotate and spin around each other  
  1. They fight for energy and weaken 
  1. THEY COMBINE! 

Now, when I say ‘COMBINE!’… We are not talking about one giant MEGASTORM forming. It doesn’t work that way.  

The centers of the two lows (low pressure systems/ tropical cyclones/ hurricanes) start to spin counter-clockwise around a single fixed point in between.  

What happens next depends on the size of the storms. If they two systems are relatively the same, then this ‘meet up’ will likely just change the trajectory of each. However, if one storm is much larger than the other, the larger one can ‘absorb’ the smaller storm into its own circulation.  

This occurred in 2005 when Wilma absorbed alpha off the eastern coast of the U.S. We also saw this happen in 1995 when Hurricane Iris absorbed a dissipating Karen! 

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