Tropical Cyclone Belal

Tropical Cyclone Belal

In January 2024, Tropical Cyclone Belal lashed Réunion and Mauritius, islands in the southwest Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, with torrential rain and flooding.

The MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the top image at about 06:00 Universal Time (10 a.m. in Réunion) on January 14. The storm strengthened that day to the equivalent of a category-2 hurricane, with sustained winds of at least 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour.

Belal made landfall over northwestern Réunion on the morning of January 15 bearing sustained winds near 170 kilometers (105 miles) per hour. Mauritius, located 226 kilometers (140 miles) northeast of the French island of Réunion, was also hit by high winds and heavy rain as Belal’s center passed south of the island nation. According to news reports, authorities in Réunion issued the highest storm alert (purple); officials in Mauritius issued a level three cyclone warning, the second-highest alert of the island’s warning system.

The VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) sensor on the NOAA-20 satellite acquired the second image at 10:00 Universal Time (2 p.m. in Réunion) on January 15. The storm’s center had moved southeast over the Indian Ocean as the system weakened, but cloud bands still spanned Réunion and Mauritius. As of midday on January 16, the forecasts called for rain and strong winds to continue over both islands.

Cyclone season in the southwest Indian Ocean runs from around late-October to May, with activity peaking in mid-January and again from mid-February to early March. Belal is the basin’s second and strongest system so far in the 2023-2024 season. Last season, the unusually long-lived Tropical Cyclone Freddy thrashed Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Wanmei Liang, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE, GIBS/Worldview, and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Story by Kathryn Hansen.

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