Cape Verde: Where Hurricanes are Born

For hurricanes which affect the Caribbean, North America, and South America, the biggest impact is from those which originate as weather disturbances in the area of the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa, know as the Cape Verde hurricanes. On the whole, 85% of all hurricanes affecting the Americas come from Africa.

Hurricanes can spawn within the Caribbean but fortunately are generally less powerful because they don’t have as much time over warm water to develop the huge amounts of energy of their African cousins.

Seeds Grow

Between Africa and South America, just north of our planet’s equator (yellow), is a strip of comparatively warm ocean water (orange). Sitting at the Eastern end of that phenomena are the Cape Verde Islands.

These islands experience developing weather from June to November, but especially July through October, with up to 20 days per month of rainfall in September. This happens because the Trade Winds are moving westwards and this is where they encounter that very warm Atlantic Ocean water for the first time.

How a hurricane grows

People talk about how warm water and winds combine to form a hurricane, but many don’t truly understand the mechanism. So let’s look at how it works.

First, you need an existing disturbance in the atmosphere, such as a thunderstorm which are extraordinarily common over Western Africa at this time of year. With just a few more contributing factors it can evolve into a full-fledged tropical depression, and possibly a hurricane.

The main requirement is that ocean water must be at least 78° F (26.5° C) down to a depth of 150 feet (50 meters), scientists estimate. This provides a massive heat sink from which the storm will draw its energy in the form of gaseous water.

Next, it needs to be more than 5° of latitude above the equator. Our planet rotates towards the east, which is why it appears that the Sun (and Moon, and stars) rise in the eastern sky. Right on the Equator there is no effective spin imparted to the air. A weather system must be a minimum of 5° away in order to gain rotation from the turning Earth.

To understand this, it helps to know that the Equator is traveling at about 1,000 miles per hour as the Earth spins. At 45° N latitude (which passes through OR, ID, MT, MN, SD, WI, MI, Ontario, Quebec, ME, NY, VT, NH, and Nova Scotia) the speed is half of that or 500 mph. Someone at either pole is effectively traveling a 0 mph. This “twisting” is known as the Coriolis Effect and without it hurricanes wouldn’t be possible.

It might help to imagine a lump of clay on a surface. If you were to slide your hand along the upper surface, it would begin to roll. Your hand and the table are moving at different “speeds” so the clay adapts by spinning.

Next it requires very low wind-shear in the atmosphere. If you have ever looked at a cloud and observed that it looks as if it were pushed over like a tower of blocks getting ready to fall that is likely due to wind shear. The air above is traveling faster than the air below, and likely in a different direction, so the cloud is “torn apart. You can see this in action with this video.

The next component is plenty of moisture being moved up into the atmosphere. This is the fuel for the hurricane. It results in unstable conditions, the consequence of which is thunderstorms.

Putting it all together

It doesn’t happen often that all the conditions are “just right”. If it did, the results would be continuous hurricanes across our planet.
But, when it does happen it works like this:

  1.  The Trade Winds leave the west coast of Africa, around the Cape Verde Islands at 12° N latitude, and encounter a warm ocean that is throwing untold tons of water up into the atmosphere through evaporation.
  2. Down at ocean-level warm water continues to evaporate and rises, forming Nimbus (storm) clouds. As those clouds form, the gaseous water condenses to liquid releasing its heat, and that adds fuel to the fire. The hot air rises, and more air is drawn in from below to replace it, adding more water, releasing more heat and so on, feeding the giant engine of a hurricane.
  3. The various layers of the atmosphere become harmonious, traveling in roughly the same direction at approximately the same speed. This means that the thunderstorms can dwell in the center of circulation and add more energy. If the wind shear is too great, the thunderstorms dissipate and the hurricane turns back into an ordinary tropical storm.
  4. The Coriolis Effect then starts to amplify the rotation of the air mass, making the southerly portion turn faster, and the northerly portion speeds up in response because the Prevailing Westerlies (blue on the map) are not as fast or strong as the Trade Winds.[ CITATION Sta17 \l 1033 ]
    Since the storm rotates counterclockwise and encounters the eastbound Westerlies along its northern edge, what may be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane overall becomes a Category 4 along that upper border.

Hurricane Sizes

For ease of reference, there is a scale to describe hurricanes. It is called the Saffir-Simpson Scale and references not just the wind speed, but also the likely storm surge. A Category 1 will have winds under 100 mph, which may be reassuring, but if you live near the shore in an area only a couple of feet above the local water level, a surge of 5 feet could cause a lot of damage. If you’re 10 feet above the local water level, a Cat 3 might hit 12 feet during the surge. You had better get those sandbags out, and make sure your pump is working!

What kills a hurricane?

Hurricanes generally fizzle out before they do the level of damage that we’ve seen just recently. As mentioned, wind shear drives the thunderstorm “engines” away from the center of rotation, which is similar to taking the batteries out of a device—it might continue running for a while—but it’s going to get slower and slower until it stops.

Another hurricane killer is dry air. If the Jet Stream dips down and starts feeding it cool dry air it can cause so much turbulence that the whole thing just disintegrates into several smaller, harmless storms. Dry air siphons off the water “fuel” and it fades away.

Landfall is also fatal to hurricanes, for as we’ve seen, they are dependent on incoming water to survive. Take that away and they cannot maintain their thunderstorms and simply fail.

Finally, the ultimate death knell for a hurricane, even if it stays over open water, is the cold North Atlantic water. It simply can’t draw enough water and energy from the frigid waters and dies an ignominious death.

History of Destruction

At the time of writing, hurricane Maria is a Cat 1 hurricane, off the east coast of the United States and headed northeast which is ideal. Meanwhile, Cat 3 hurricane Lee is just a bit southeast of Bermuda and headed northwest, and current predictions have it turning north on Thursday, northeast on Friday, and dissipating by Saturday morning in the mid-north Atlantic. Good news.

This has been an expensive hurricane season in 2017 in terms of lives lost, property and infrastructure damaged, and likely a prolonged recovery time. The island of Barbuda is completely devoid of residents for the first time in 300 years after Irma struck it with all its fury. The island went from beautiful green to completely brown in a matter of hours. Most of the residents are now living on their sister island Antigua.

Barbuda has a GDP of about one billion dollars, but based largely on tourism, and damages exceeding $250,000,000. That is a much tougher problem to solve since they are going to have no tourists for quite a while…

Katrina devastated Louisiana in 2005, and political wrangling left the area struggling for years trying to rebuild. It’s only now more than a decade later that they are getting back to pre-Katrina levels, though areas like the Lower 9th Ward are still struggling.

Texas, and notably Houston, has suffered a massive impact from hurricane Harvey, but have already acquired $15 billion from FEMA to start the rebuilding. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said it was just a down payment on what was to come.

FEMA approved $124 million for individuals and Households for Florida on September 10 in response to the damage caused by two hurricanes Harvey, and Irma. FEMA has more to spend but numbers aren’t readily available.

Puerto Rico suffered significant damage from hurricane Maria as well, even if not to the same extent, but has the advantage of a massive wealthy government to help them with financial support, and rebuilding infrastructure. The island is largely without electricity, and the people are working to get things back in operation. It will take months to restore essential services, but they have a much higher expectation that help will be forthcoming once the political rhetoric is done compared to places like Barbuda.

Climate Change

With this barrage of devastating weather, some of the more outrageous news outlets have been shamelessly blaming Global Warming for all these woes. While it is true that it may have exacerbated it slightly, in truth, Harvey was statistically indistinguishable from of number of earlier hurricanes. These reach back to Hurricane Easy in 1950 with 45 inches of rain, Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979 with 42 inches of rain in just 24 hours (whereas hurricane Harvey took three days to reach that amount), and even Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 with its 48 inches of rain.

The Takeaway

We’re big fans of reality-based, replicable science around here, and feel free to protest when it is used for the sake of making headlines instead of reflecting the world we live in. This article by Eric Holthaus is a case in point. Harvey is not unique; it is not a once in “500 years” storm (additional hyperbole suggests that it is a “once in a millennium” storm). We’ve had four in this particular area since 1950 (Harvey plus the three mentioned above).

When people seem too smug, and adopt an “I told you so” attitude, you should probably take what they say with a grain of salt. Maybe you could even do a little research on your own. The facts, however speak for themselves. No weather event can be attributed to Global Warming specifically. It may alter it in some way, but there are always more direct local influences on such a complex system.

In science, few people speak of certainties, and you should be suspicious if they do. We speak of probabilities while looking for faults in our examination process. Real scientists don’t mind being wrong because that is how we learn new things.

Works Cited
Britt, R. (2005, May 27). How And Where Hurricanes Form. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from LiveScience:
Iacurci, J. (2017). 85% of U.S. hurricanes come from Africa. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from Nature World News:
Reynolds, A. (2017, September 7). CATO Institute. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from CATO AT LIBERTY:
State Climate Office of North Carolina. (n.d.). Hurricanes – Development. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from State Climate Office of North Carolina: if
Sterling J, S. C. (2017, September 15). CNN. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from
The University of Rhode Island #1. (2015). Hurricane Development: From Birth to Maturity. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from Hurricane Science:
The University of Rhode Island #2. (2015). Hurricane Decay: Demise of a Hurricane. Retrieved Sept 21, 2017, from Hurricane Science:

The story of Jeronimo is a fictional piece that takes one back to life in Cape Verde in the mid-1950’s. The story is a depiction of the common struggles associated with life and journey to distant lands in search of a better life. A story that is so common amongst many Cape Verdean’s who have immigrated and have hustled their way to success despite their humble beginnings.

Continue reading →

Origin, Inspiration and Future of Cape Verde Fashion

Fashion – is disputably one of the strongest components of a culture these days. It is a strong derivative of a region’s history, traditions, civilization and even climate. Even though Paris, Milan and New York have always been the global fashion hub, that hub is now becoming inclusive of all entities and cultures across the globe. Cape Verde fashion has been making its presence felt in the world over the last couple of years. It is refreshing to see this small island-country bringing forward its own trends in 2017 to the global fashion market.

Cape Verde fashion palette is a mosaic of various other cultures. Because 20% of Cape Verde’s GDP is tied to tourism, people from all across the west and Europe visit this beautiful islands of West Africa because of its pristine scenic beauty. Because of its strong influence of tourists and its former colonial roots, the Cape Verde fashion industry remained under the influence of European and Western fashion industry for a very long time. As a matter of fact, it had no fashion market of its own for many years after its independence. Most of the fashion merchandisers and boutique owners imported their high street fashion attire from Europe and America and sell them to the local consumers for profit. The fashion scene of the region heavily depended solely on the imported goods. Things started to shift in 2010 and the fashion industry of Cape Verde began to thrive. Several artists from Cape Verde participate New York and Milan fashion weeks and showcase their collections. These up and coming fashion designers have successfully distinguished Cape Verde fashion as a separate entity and brought forward their unique culture and history through clothing.

How Cape Verde Fashion Went Global?

Cape Verde’s first exclusive fashion magazine ‘So What’ went online in 2013, and it set the stage for Cape Verde fashion to go global. It featured local fashion designers like Mirte da Graça and Lisete Pote who provided Cape Verde fashion its basic infrastructure. Their designs featured bold and vibrant colors of the Caribbean, such as orange and blues with traditional tribal patterns. The high point of Cape Verde fashion was its 2015 plus size fashion show. Cape Verde ended 2015 with a series of cultural festivities, which included a runway fashion show for plus size women. The fashion show aimed to achieve two major goals:

  1. Discourage body shaming and encourage body positivity among African women and women across the globe
  2. Send the messages across the globe that fashion is an important medium of self-expression for Cape Verdeans

The plus size Cape Verdean fashion show surpassed its goals. The organizers of the show, Ivanilda Luz, and Marise Rodrigues were acclaimed for their message of positive body image, which led the way for Cape Verdean fashion designers towards a more global platform.

Who are the Pioneers of Cape Verde Fashion?

1. Nelida Cardoso

Nelida Cardoso’s fashion designs are a popping picture of her African ancestries, mixed with a fiery, feminist flare. Her 2014 runway collection stirred the global fashion world and played a major role in placing Cape Verde fashion on the global map. It was an Avante Garde inspired monochromatic collection, that featured traditional African nature-inspired fabric and earthy head accessories.

2. Cindy Monteiro

Cindy Monteiro is a Cape Verde fashion designer who fully embraced her heritage, which is reflected in her designs. The world first noticed Monteiro with her collection for the 2014 Vaiss Fashion Day. It was the first time Monteiro broke off the monochromatic trend and introduced some prints inspired by the European fashion trends to the Cape Verde runways. She has been consistent in releasing her lookbooks and designs since then.  Just recently she made her debut in the New York Fashion Week with a breathtaking island-inspired collection. Monteiro used shells and beads for her silk ruffled outfits and almost transplanted her entire audience to an island for a few minutes.

Bernadina – the collection Monteiro featured uses natural fabric including jute line and cotton line to enhance her African designs. To add to its uniqueness, the collection is hand painted by the designer herself so each piece makes an individual statement.

3. Josefa Da Silva

Josefa Da Silva is another Cape Verde born fashion designer who recently showcased her collection at the Accra Fashion Week. Da Silva draws her inspiration from her African roots and is known to marry them in a contemporary fusion with American fashion trends. With her textured fabrics and tribal prints, Da Silva has managed to successfully design many Cape Verde-inspired dresses for various global celebrities including former Miss Universe, Leila Lopes.

3. Angelica Timas

Angelica Timas, a trendsetting fashion designer located in Boston, Massachusetts was born in Praia, Cape Verde. Despite having any official training in the fashion industry, Timas’ vision and strong desire to become a designer, coupled with her discipline and good work ethic helped her to not only to pursue her dreams but to also successfully leave a mark in an industry unfamiliar to her original and professional territory.

The only thing that was between me and my dream was the fear of failure.– Angelica Timas

Timas also holds two Master’s degrees in totally unrelated fields, having received her formal education in Computer science and working as a Software Engineer, as well of being the proud founder and designer of the brand “Chikke”.

“Chikke” by Angelica Timas, which was launched not too long ago has gained significant traction in the fashion industry. Timas’ collections have been featured in many popular publications such as Glamor Italia, and Vogue England. Timas has also won many awards for her work including the Boston Fashion Award for evening wear. She continues to be popular in the fashion arena and can often be seen present in many fashion events throughout the world.

What is the High Street Fashion Scenario of Cape Verde?

Even though it is a tiny nation, Cape Verde is inhabited and visited by a plethora of ethnicities which only enrich its culture and heritage.

The main streetwear for both men and women in Cape Verde is chic and trendy and heavily inspired by the U.S and western street wear. At the same time, it also delves into its native traditions. Bold and graphic attire is pretty popular among the youth.

Based on recent trends, it is likely that Cape Verde will successfully make its separate and distinct mark in the global fashion industry.


8 Reasons To Be A Proud Cape Verdean

We know that Cape Verdeans across the globe have a lot of pride in their culture and history, so we sought out to compile a list of “8 Reasons To Be A Proud Cape Verdean.”

1. Music

You can never listen to enough Cape Verdean music. It’s such a big part of our culture and one of our biggest contributions to the world. Some of our most notable musicians include: Cesaria Evora, Bana, Mika Mendes, Gil Semedo, and Mayra Andrade. We thank them for blessing us with the songs and stories that have consistently made us proud, and given us the chance  to share our pride with people who know nothing about the islands. Genres include morna, coladeira, zouk, funana, kizomba and batuque. Our music is filled with longing, love, history and soul and allow us to celebrate the unique people we are, every single day.

2. Passada

We all know the feeling of going to the club, or some family party and the excitement that comes with knowing that you’re going to be able to perfect your passada moves on the dance floor. We just can’t help it – the one-two step to the tune of your favorite Nelson Freitas song just takes over you. The dance floor is always LIT and sweating out your newly blow-dried hair is a guarantee. No doubt, you are always ready to teach your non-Cape Verdean friends how to move their hips the way you do, because we know there’s so much beauty in this form of art, and no other dance can ever compare.

3. Our Traditional Foods

Two of the most popular traditional Cape Verdean foods are catchupa and pastel. Cachupa is a stew that typically consists of hominy, beans, fish or meat and is considered Cape Verde’s national dish. Every household adds it owns flare of ingredients and spices. A personal favorite variation is catchupa refogado (or refried), especially with a fried egg on top, drizzled with olive oil straight from the motherland.  As for pastel, the flaky tuna-filled fried dough, you never know you were craving it until you see the aluminum filled “panela” from across the room, and 5 minutes later you realize you’ve eaten 17 of them and your diet is ruined. But it was worth it!

4. Our Sense of Community & Family

Whether you’re from Dorchester, Providence, New Bedford or southern California, the sense of community among Cape Verdeans is undeniable. Cape Verdeans are committed to each other, and it shows in big and small ways. Our school and church communities are some of the strongest and most involved. This is also evident through the fact that 20% of Cape Verde’s GDP is from remittances (a transfer of money by a foreigner to an individual in his or her home country). We’re accustomed to watching our mothers fill “bidons” to send back home to those who don’t have the means. This level of generosity is a result of and reinforced by our deep feeling of connectedness to each other, to the close-knit families near to us, and to those across oceans who never stop singing our praises.

5. Our Drive to Succeed

We truly belief that as a people, Cape Verdeans possess an undeniable drive to succeed. Some of our biggest inspirations are people we grew up with on the block, who have navigated the tough streets of our cities, graduated from some of the best institutions in the country and through hard work, are making a name for themselves in and outside of our community. Some have taken more nontraditional paths and have accomplished some impressive things, but one theme is clear – hard work is in our DNA and we’re always eager for the next opportunity to better ourselves. We expect to see an increasing number of role models continue to represent us over the next few years, and we can’t wait to give them a shout out.

6. Development of the Country

Since it gained independence in 1975, Cape Verde has been a relatively stable democracy, with development metrics such as the Human Development Index (life expectancy, education, infant mortality, income per capita), being among the highest in all of Africa. Due to its successes in combatting the country’s poverty levels and continuous growth in GDP year over year, in 2008 Cape Verde graduated from Least Developed Country to Middle Income Country (established by the World Trade Organization). Despite its lack of natural resources, Cape Verde is paving the way in areas such renewable energy, which can be attributed to wind farms that were built in 2011 that now supply 25% of the country’s electricity, with a target of 100% by 2020 (Learn more). We hope to see continued investment in sectors including, but not limited to education, technology, and tourism, but so far, we are proud of the model the Cape Verde serves for other developing nations in Africa and beyond. Read more about Cape Verde’s history and development here.

7. Relative Freedom of Its People

Cape Verde’s “Freedom In the World” rating, which measures the degree of civil liberties and political rights is the highest possible (1/1), ranking higher than all of the other 53 African countries, sharing first place with 48 other countries globally. Cape Verde also ranks #1 in Africa for “Freedom of the Press.” This is HUGE considering the level of oppression and lack of civil liberties people still experience in too many parts of the world. Cape Verdeans living in the country have the right to exercise free speech, to vote in democratic elections, the right to equal treatment under the law, right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion (to name a few) – all things we shouldn’t take for granted and should definitely celebrate.

8. Beauty in Diversity

As a whole, there’s no denying that Cape Verdeans are some of the most beautiful people on this planet. A big part of that can be attributed to the diversity of its people – we can find every skin and eye color, every hair texture, a variety of accents and traditions on each and every island of the country, as well as in every city around the globe where we have a presence. The origins of our diversity go way back to the widespread miscegenation that occurred during colonial rule that has resulted in 57% of genes in today’s Cape Verdean population coming from Africa and 43% from Europe. This level of diversity not only has created an entire population of people with enviable physical beauty but also makes its cultural traditions that much more interesting and special.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the list, which is by no means exhaustive, of the “8 Reasons to Be A Proud Cape Verdean. We welcome your comments and don’t forget to share & subscribe!