Nova Scotia

Hurricane Alex first January hurricane since 1938

The remnants of El Nino may have contributed to a highly unusual weather system in the mid-Atlantic, but don't expect any more hurricanes until the summer.

Last recorded January hurricane was in 1938 and last tropical cyclone over the Atlantic in January was 1978

This photo taken from video provided by NASA on Friday shows Hurricane Alex seen from the International Space Station. The rare January hurricane in the Atlantic closed in on the Azores on Friday, with authorities in the Portuguese islands warning of waves up to 18 meters high, wind gusts up to 160 kph and torrential rain. (The Associated Press)

A rare weather system hit the Atlantic Ocean this week and it's an event that has only happened a handful of times in the last century and a half — a hurricane in January.

This week Hurricane Alex developed, starting as a disturbance as it crossed Bermuda and intensifying to become a hurricane with 140 km/h winds, said meteorologist Jean-Marc Couturier.

Couturier, who usually spends his summer months with the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said the last time there was a tropical cyclone over the Atlantic was 1978 and the last January hurricane was in 1938.

Typically hurricane season runs from June to November, with the occasional storm in May. 

"It's definitely against normal behaviour," he said. "There are only five instances in about 160 years of data. Five instances of tropical cyclones over the Atlantic in January."

Couturier said the Atlantic provinces should not feel any direct effect, although there will likely be some large waves off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador coast early next week. 

On Friday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., said the meteorological society in the Azores, in the mid-Atlantic, had ended the hurricane and tropical storm warning for the Portuguese islands. The downgraded storm is now moving north. 

Couturier said the storm is likely tied to the ocean and atmospheric currents affected by El Nino. He said there are currently cold air temperatures and warm sea-surface temperatures over the Atlantic Ocean. 

"But because we have those cold temperatures aloft, we're able to sustain the convection that's required to sustain a hurricane so it's full steam ahead," he said. 

It's more common to see extreme rain or intense snowfall events in the wake of El Nino, Couturier said. But he doesn't expect to see other hurricanes this winter. 

"In the past few months, with El Nino being as strong as it was, now it probably is a bit on the decline. During the next few months its effect will continue to decrease," he said.