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Rare Tropical Storm Akará Forms off Brazilian Coast

February 22, 2024
Image of a tropical cyclone off the coast of Brazil

NOAA’s GOES East satellite witnessed a rare event in the South Atlantic, as Tropical Depression 01Q strengthened into Tropical Storm Akará on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. Tropical cyclones are rare in this part of the world due to strong wind shear, which disrupts their formation, as well as a general lack of disturbances that may develop into stronger systems. 

The storm first began to develop along the trailing edge of a stalled cold front that had been moving northward. According to the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellites Studies (CIMSS), a broad plume of moisture from the tropics began to move south along the coast of Brazil, which then fed into the circulation of the developing tropical disturbance, helping it to intensify. With sustained winds reaching 40 mph and a central pressure of 1000 mb, Akará marks the region's first officially recognized tropical storm since Iba in 2019 and only the third one there since Anita in 2010. 

This occurrence challenges long-standing beliefs, as until the 2000s, it was widely believed that full-fledged tropical cyclones did not form in the South Atlantic. Hurricane Catarina in 2004 shattered these assumptions, causing significant damage in Brazil. Since then, heightened attention has led to the identification of more subtropical storms, prompting the establishment of the first list of official names for these cyclones in 2011. Notable recent cases, such as Subtropical Storm Raoni in 2021, further highlight our evolving understanding of cyclone formation in the South Atlantic.

The GOES East geostationary satellite, also known as GOES-16, keeps watch over most of North America, including the contiguous United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Africa. The satellite's high-resolution imagery provides optimal viewing of severe weather events, including thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes