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  • Writer's pictureBryan Norcross


On average, more tropical storms and hurricanes are running around the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico on this date than any other. We’re at the point that the ocean water is near its warmest and winter-like weather factors have not yet affected tropical systems, which they increasingly will do later in September and into October.

Right on schedule, the National Hurricane Center is noting 7 systems across the Atlantic. None of them are an immediate threat to land, but a few do bear watching.

Starting on our side of the ocean, there are 3 disturbances of note. None have a big chance of developing, but we should pay a little extra attention because we are, after all, at the time of year that the atmosphere is extra conducive to tropical development.

Disturbance #1 is a small disturbance moving toward the Carolina coast. It is no longer expected to turn into a tropical depression before it makes it there later today. It will just add a bit to the rainy weather that has been affecting the East Coast this week.

East of the Bahamas, Disturbance #2 is being enhanced by an upper-level low-pressure system. The disturbance is forecast to move across the Florida peninsula tomorrow into Saturday as a moisture surge. After that, it appears the upper-level winds will become a bit more conducive for a circulation to develop over the Gulf of Mexico. Because the Gulf water is so warm, and systems can spin up quickly there, we’ll have to watch it, although the odds appear to be low that it would become very strong at this point.

Disturbance #3 is a weak area of low pressure that’s already in the Gulf. It is forecast to move into the western Gulf over the next few days and has a slight chance to organize at that time. Again, it looks like just a slight possibility.

In the middle of the Atlantic, Tropical Storms Paulette and Rene are forecast to turn to the north. Forecasting the intensity of these storms has been difficult. Between the dry Saharan air affecting the systems at times, upper-level systems, and the reasonably close proximity of the two storms, there has been a lot going on.

Now, it looks like Tropical Storm Paulette will end up the stronger the two. The only land that it might threaten, if the forecasts are correct, is Bermuda. And that would be Monday or Tuesday of next week. We’ll have to watch it about that time, however. Some computer forecast models bring it uncomfortably close to the U.S. East Coast. After some fits and starts as it passes through a patch of hostile upper winds, Paulette is forecast to intensify into a hurricane by the time it arrives in the vicinity of Bermuda.

Tropical Storm Rene will not threaten land. It will head north into the central Atlantic on a parallel track to Paulette. If Paulette get stronger as forecast, the air flowing out of Paulette at the upper levels may eventually weaken Rene in the long run, although it too has an opportunity to briefly reach hurricane strength in the meantime.

The system of most immediate interest in Disturbance #4. It’s moving into the Atlantic today where there’s a good chance it will become a tropical storm in the next few days.

If it’s the next storm to be named, it will be Tropical Storm Sally.

Though the weekend, at least, the system is expected to track to the west toward the Caribbean islands, but not terribly quickly. The steering currents are fairly weak right now. The question is, what’s going to happen around the first of next week? The computer forecast models are not helping us out.

It appears there will be a fork in the road when the system is about two-thirds of the way to the Caribbean. The question is, will the blocking high-pressure system to the north hold possibly-Sally south, or will the Paulette/Rene gap still be there so the storm can turn north? The weaker possibly-Sally stays, the more likely it is to continue west, but the strength of Paulette might also come into play. A stronger Paulette might have the effect of further weakening the blocking high.

There are too many moving parts to know any more right now.

Next in line is Disturbance #5. It is forecast to move off the coast in a day or two. Its proximity to possibly-Sally raises questions about whether one system might affect the other’s track. We’ll have to see how close they end up and what their relative strengths are over the weekend to know if that could be a factor.

The “T” name on the list is Teddy.

The more systems there are running around the Atlantic, the more likely long-range forecasts will change. So even though nothing appears to be threatening right now, it’s the time of year to stay informed.


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