Cyclone Freddy was a record-breaking storm of exceptional length, intensity, and lethality, that caused devastating damage to countries across the entire Indian Ocean. The storm formed off the northwestern coast of Australia on February 3rd, 2023, making its first landfall on Madagascar’s eastern coast and then moving west to Mozambique in late February. This cyclone traveled over land as a tropical depression with a center localized near the border between Malawi and Mozambique, wreaking immense havoc in both countries.
Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)
The storm caused immense damage to Malawi and Mozambique, including the destruction of infrastructure, homes, schools, and public health facilities. 564,000 people were displaced from their homes in Malawi, with the death toll totaling to almost 700. In Mozambique, over 180,000 people were displaced, with at least 184 people killed. The island of Madagascar had a death toll of at least 17.
The agricultural sector in these countries was also significantly impacted as a result of the heavy flooding. “[The] highest reported impact was in Malawi’s agriculture sector, where a total of 2,267,458 people (51% women) lost their crops and livestock as the cyclone destroyed more than 442,000 acres (179,223 hectares) of land” (Tropical Cyclone Freddy). In Mozambique, 92,000 hectares of crops have been affected, resulting in widespread food insecurity in the nation. Already affected by multiple cyclones earlier this year, Madagascar is facing “catastrophic hunger” (Tropical Cyclone Freddy), with 60%-90% of the agricultural land in the country badly damaged.
Role of Climate Change
One of the main questions raised following climate events such as this is how important of a role has climate change played in this storm. Attribution science (also referred to as extreme event attribution) is a “relatively recent field in climate science that tries to quantitatively determine if an extreme weather event was caused or worsened by climate change or was simply due to natural variations” (Menga). It is still too early to determine whether climate change played a crucial role in Cyclone Freddy’s intensity and longevity, but the evidence from past research and analysis of storms such as this is that as the climate warms, more intense storms are more likely to happen. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “There is a projected increase of average tropical cyclone wind speeds and associated heavy precipitation and of the proportion of category 4-5 tropical cyclones” (Tropical Cyclone Freddy may set a new record).
Source: Carbon Brief
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Menga, Marina. “Climate intelligence at work: the case of Cyclone Freddy – Foresight.” Climate Foresight, 19 April 2023,
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