The brown ocean effect – a trend to keep an eye on

Tropical cyclones usually weaken after they make landfall, but under certain conditions they may intensify or maintain their strength. This is called “the brown ocean effect,” a phenomenon when a large area of hot soil (usually a desert) is soaked by rain from a tropical storm, releasing heat into the atmosphere and fueling the storm. This phenomenon also requires that the lower level of atmosphere resembles a tropical one, and that there is minimal variation in temperature.

These conditions are most likely to occur in Australia, but can also happen in the U.S. and China, according to a recent AIR Worldwide blog post. A NASA-funded study that looked at 227 tropical storms between 1979 and 2008 found that after making landfall, 16 storms, including Tropical Storm Erin, maintained their tropical warm-core characteristics over land, and effectively became “brown ocean effect storms.”

NASA’s satellite image of Ex-Tropical Cyclone Kelvin, moving through Western Australia on Feb. 20, 2018

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