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March 07, 2023,
12:00 UTC

Tropical Cyclone
01 March - 05 March 2023

Visible satellite image of severe tropical cyclone KEVIN
close to peak intensity after the passage of Vanuatu,
Source: NASA Worldview

An intense category 4 severe tropical cyclone, on the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale, hit the island state of Vanuatu on March 4, 2023, with maximum sustained winds of 165 km/h and gusts of up to 230 km/h. After passing the archipelago the underwent rapid intensification and reached category 5.

The tropical low developing into tropical cyclone KEVIN formed on March 1, 2023, over the South Pacific to the northeast of Australia, the system quickly intensified on a southeasterly course, closely following the track of tropical cyclone JUDY. The tropical low quickly intensified in favorable conditions with high sea surface temperatures and low wind shear.

Sea surface temperature anomalies over the Soutwestern Pacific with positive anomalies over the Coral Sea,
source: NASA

Tracking southeastwards, the cyclone intensified rapidly on March 3 and March 4, 2023, reaching category 4 (Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale) with maximum sustained winds of 165 km/h and gusts of up 230 km/h. The system brought heavy precipitation to the archipelago and a severe storm surge. And that after tropical cyclone JUDY passed the island group on March 1, 2023, and caused severe damage. The power grid and the infrastructure were once again severely affected by the strong winds the system brought.

Cyclone track of tropical cyclone JUDY (left) and severe tropical cyclone KEVIN (right), source: NASA

After passing the archipelago the storm tracked further southeastwards and underwent rapid intensification reaching category, at peak intensity the storm featured sustained winds of up to 215 km/h with wind gusts reaching up 260 km/h and the minimum pressure dropping to 925 hPa, making it one of the most intense tropical cyclones recorded in this part of the world. In the following days the storm tracked further southeastwards, reaching cooler ocean parts, and subsequently weakening. By March 5, 2023, tropical cyclone KEVIN became extratropical, integrating in the southern hemisphere storm track.

As mentioned, the passage of severe tropical cyclone KEVIN in quick succession to tropical cyclone JUDY in the first days of March 2023 led to large damage on the islands of Vanuatu, marking an active tropical cyclone season over the Southern Pacific.

Text: KG
March 07, 2023

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