Of course we’re referring to Hurricane Alex here, which blew up in far eastern Atlantic waters thought to be way too cold to spin up such a storm. Textbook meteorology says hurricanes, which feed off the heat of the ocean, won’t form over waters cooler than about 80°F. On the morning of January 14, Alex exploded over waters that were a chilly 68°.
Alex is (at least) the third hurricane observed in January, with others in 1938 and 1955. The latter one, Hurricane Alice2, was actually alive on New Year’s Day.
The generation of Alex was very complex. First, a garden-variety low pressure system formed over the Bahamas late last week and slowly drifted eastward. It was derived from the complicated, but well-understood processes associated with the jet stream and a cold front, and that certainly had nothing to do with global warming.
The further south cold fronts go into the tropical Atlantic, the more likely that they will just dissipate, and that’s what happened last week, too. Normally the associated low-pressure would also wash away. But after it initially formed near the Bahamas and drifted eastward, it was in a region where sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) are running about 3°F above the long-term average consistent with a warmer world. This may have been just enough to fuel the persistent remnant cluster of thunderstorms that meandered in the direction of Spain.
Over time, the National Hurricane Center named this collection “Alex” as a “subtropical” cyclone, which is what we call a tropical low pressure system that doesn’t have the characteristic warm core of a hurricane.