Latin America & Caribbean

Atlantic hurricane in January linked to El Nino

Satellite image shows Hurricane Alex forming over the Atlantic Ocean Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Satellite images recorded the moment the storm became a hurricane

A rare January hurricane has formed far out in the Atlantic, the first to form in the month since 1938.

A warning has been issued for the Azores Islands as Hurricane Alex heads in that direction with wind speeds of 140km/h (85 mph).

The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said the hurricane was likely to hit the islands on Friday.

Residents have been told to expect waves up to 18m (60ft) high and wind gusts up to 160km/h.

In calendar terms, Alex is one of the earliest tropical systems to form in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin since records began.

Image copyright NOAA

Meanwhile, another tropical storm, Pali, has formed over the Pacific, similarly rare at this time of year.

Scientists have linked the storms to powerful winds and high sea surface temperatures resulting from an unusually strong El Nino phenomenon this year.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said the 2015 occurrence of El Nino will be among the three strongest recorded since 1950.

Severe droughts and significant flooding in many parts of the world are being attributed to the phenomenon, which occurs every two to seven years.

El Nino is a naturally occurring weather episode that sees the warm waters of the central Pacific expand eastwards towards North and South America.

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