ETA MEANDERS IN THE GULF WHILE THETA FORMS IN THE ATLANTIC AND WE WATCH THE CARIBBEAN
Tropical Storm Eta has shrunk since its main outer band battered southeast Florida Sunday night. It has, somewhat surprisingly, shed the comma’s tail, and is now a compact storm drifting near western Cuba. Moisture is still being pulled up over South Florida, however, so bands of heavy tropical rain will still form, but the bands won't be as thick and intense as they were when Eta’s center was closer.
Local flooding remains a threat where a band passes over because the ground is so saturated. But in between the bands, it will be breezy and quite nice.
Eta is going to lollygag over very warm water well southwest of Key West, near the western tip of Cuba. The atmospheric environment is fairly conducive for strengthening, and in response, Eta is forecast to be at or near hurricane strength as it drifts back to the north well offshore of Florida over the next day or two. As long as Eta stays fairly strong, it will have enough oomph to continue to cause narrow rain bands in the moisture flow on the east side – the Florida side – of the circulation.
Toward the middle of the week, the upper-level winds are forecast to become more hostile, and dry air should wrap into the circulation, so the National Hurricane Center forecast calls for Eta to weaken as it tracks north parallel to the Florida west coast. As that happens the second half of the week, Eta’s influence on South Florida’s weather will diminish, and the threat of rain should drastically drop. Better weather is coming.
The track Eta takes late in the week is very dependent on its intensity. If it is significantly wounded by the upper winds and dry air, it will more likely stay to the left side of the cone. It it’s stronger than forecast, it would probably lean right, and could track toward the west or northwest Florida peninsula. The odds currently favor Eta weakening significantly before it gets near land.
Far on the other side of the Atlantic, Subtropical Storm Theta has formed out of a non-tropical low-pressure system – a common feature in the Atlantic this time of year. Read the subtropical designation as indicating that the system is transitioning from non-tropical into a fully tropical storm as it tracks over warm water. This is the transition stage.
Theta is moving in the general direction of Portugal. It may get absorbed by the northern jet stream before it gets there.
This is the first time in the record book that we’ve had a storm named Theta. And 2020 is the first hurricane season to have 29 named storms. And we are still counting.
In the Caribbean, there is another disturbance to watch. The computer forecast models predict that a weak disturbance in the general vicinity of Puerto Rico will track into the Central Caribbean and develop into a tropical depression or tropical storm in a few days. The National Hurricane Center is giving it a good chance of developing.
In about a week, long-range computer forecasts show a strong cold front pushing through Florida. That should keep any potential tropical system in the Caribbean for the foreseeable future. But, of course, we closely watch any system that develops to our south.
If the Caribbean disturbance gets a name, it would be Tropical Storm Iota – the next letter in the Greek alphabet – which, of course, would be yet another 2020 record.