Meet Hector, the thunderstorm that can tell time
Have you ever had a friend tell you they’ll be 10 minutes, but you end up waiting half an hour for them? Chances are, you probably have. Unlike your friends however, a special thunderstorm known as ‘Hector the Convector’ shows up like clockwork over the Tiwi Islands at 3pm every day during the build-up season, between roughly September-December. Additionally, Hector remains prominent throughout the entire northern Australia wet season, whenever the monsoon is in a ‘break’ period.
So what exactly makes Hector so special, and why is he so reliable?
Though weather phenomena are only typically named if they have the potential to impact the widespread community, Hector’s uncanny predictability make him one of only a few exceptions. Located just north of Darwin, over Melville and Bathurst islands, Hector’s reliability is the result of a unique set of conditions conducive to thunderstorm development.
- The presence of moist tropical air.
- Differential heating between the islands and the ocean, creating a Seabreeze (something you’ve probably experienced during the afternoon whilst at the beach).
- The pyramid shaped topography of Melville and Bathurst islands, generating a converging Seabreeze that forces moist air to shoot up into the troposphere.
As a result of these factors, Hector can reach up to 20km high in the atmosphere. That’s above the cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft!
Where does the name Hector come from?
The name ‘Hector’ was coined by pilots and naval sailors travelling from Darwin to Papua New Guinea during WWII. This is because they used Hector as a point of navigation given his formation occurs more or less in the same spot, at the same time, every day from September-December. Locals later added their own flavour to the name, referring to him as ‘Hector the Convector’.
Is there more than meets the eye?
Whilst Hector produces some jaw-dropping thunder cloud formations, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Hector’s reliability make it one of the most studied thunderstorms in the world. This is because thunderstorms vary tremendously in space and time, making them difficult to study. Hence, meteorologists/researchers analysing thunderstorm formation often have their eyes fixed towards the top end during its wet season, to further our knowledge of nature’s gift to humankind.
What are some other named weather systems?
Aside from those given to hurricanes, tropical cyclones and typhoons, there have been some quirky names assigned to weather systems and storm tracks In the United States. They include a ‘Pineapple express’, ‘Chattanoonga Choo-choo’, ‘Texas Panhandler’, ‘Nor’easter’ and an ‘Alberta Clipper’. These nicknames describe storms or weather events that have distinct characteristics and meet a certain set of conditions. ‘East coast lows’ are a common example of this in Australia.
In a world filled with uncertainty, Hector dominates as natures very own body clock, showing up every day from September-December and right throughout the wet season. So whilst you mightn’t be able to rely on your friends all of the time, Hector is a thunderstorm you can always trust.