Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am
In mid-January 2016, an unusual storm spun up in the Atlantic basin. A tropical depression in the eastern Atlantic evolved into Hurricane Alex in the morning hours of January 14, becoming the earliest hurricane in the basin since 1938 and the fourth January hurricane in 150 years of records.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the storm on the morning of January 15 and captured this thermal image of Alex as it approached the Azores. Using thermal infrared radiation, the sensors can differentiate between the relatively cool ocean waters, which appear blue and the icy temperatures of the cloud tops, which appear pink.
A few hours later, at 7 a.m. EST (1200 UTC) on January 15, Alex had weakened a bit, but maintained hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph (120 km/h). It was located near 28.0 N latitude and 26.9 W longitude, just 50 miles (80 km) south-southeast of Terceira Island in the Central Azores, and about 105 mi (170 km) east-southeast of Faial Island in the Central Azores. Alex was moving to the north at 24 mph (29 km/h).
By the late evening of January 15, Alex became an extra-tropical storm, and the next morning it had elongated and the cloud pattern had taken on the characteristics of a frontal system as it moved toward Greenland.