First January Atlantic Hurricane Since 1938 Forms

"Remarkably, Alex has undergone the transformation into a hurricane," the National Hurricane Center announced Jan. 14. "A distinct eye is present, embedded within a fairly symmetric mass of deep convection."

The Azores Meteorological Service has issued a hurricane warning for the islands of Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira in the central Azores and a tropical storm warning for the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the eastern Azores, in advance of Hurricane Alex, identified Jan. 14 by the National Hurricane Center as the first Atlantic hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938 and the first hurricane to occur in this month since Alice in 1955.

"Remarkably, Alex has undergone the transformation into a hurricane. A distinct eye is present, embedded within a fairly symmetric mass of deep convection. Water vapor imagery shows that the upper-level trough is now west of the cyclone, with divergent flow over the center -- indicative of a tropical transition," the Miami-based center's analysis states. "It is very unusual to have a hurricane over waters that are near 20 deg C, but the upper-tropospheric temperatures are estimated to be around -60 deg C, which is significantly colder than the tropical mean. The resulting instability is likely the main factor contributing to the tropical transition and intensification of Alex. With these changes, the government of the Azores has issued warnings for most of the Azores islands."

The system will be passing over even colder waters during the next day or two, according to the analysis: "In 36 hours, the global models suggest that the cyclone will become extratropical as it begins to merge with a large low pressure area at high latitude. The post-tropical cyclone is then likely to lose its identity after 48 hours."

On the forecast track, the center of Alex will move near or over portions of the Azores on Friday morning. Maximum sustained winds were near 85 mph (140 km/h) with higher gusts, with little change in strength being forecast through Friday.