The window is wide open. The next three weeks will likely be the busiest period of activity in the tropical Atlantic for the remaining 2012 season. Ernesto broke the drought, so-to-speak, of storms that had been absent since Debby came ashore in late June. As explained in our most-recent State of the Season update, several intraseasonal features were to account for the 5-week lull in tropical activity, which often happens in July. While we await to see how much influence our developing El Niño will have on the second half of the season (September through November), atmospheric conditions seem to be coming together for what could be a very active time of tracking storms in the WRUF weather center.
Short-Term Forecast (August 10-14)
We are currently monitoring four areas in the Atlantic Basin for possible development over the coming days. The first feature is actually not a new one. The remnant low pressure from what was Tropical Storm Florence is expected to move north of the Leeward Islands this weekend and turn northwest, moving between the Bahamas and Bermuda. Thunderstorm activity has redeveloped near this system, but upper-level winds are too strong and it only has a low chance of redeveloping into a tropical cyclone.
The second area of interest is Tropical Depression Seven, likely to be named Tropical Storm Gordon on Friday. Stronger winds aloft are also forecast to develop near or just north of this system, which will likely take it on a similar path as Ernesto into the eastern Caribbean by early next week. Water temperatures in this region are slightly cooler and some drier air is forecast to develop in front of the storm, both factors that could prevent [Gordon] from being much to worry about.
The third tropical disturbance we are watching might have the most potential of them all, but it is still at least a week from moving close to any sizable land mass. Long-range global forecast models suggest rapid intensification of this feature over the weekend into our seventh (or eighth, depending on the aforementioned wave) named storm of the season. Atmospheric conditions and the trajectory of the mid-level winds suggest this one will be demanding our attention next week, so stay tuned.
And finally, a tropical wave has emerged in the central Caribbean, identified south of Haiti on Thursday. This particular area of interest is NOT expected to develop into a tropical cyclone. However, it is forecast to move northwestward, crossing the island of Cuba, and potentially delivering some heavy rain as it moves across central and south Florida over the coming weekend. We will closely monitor this feature and have updates during your local forecasts on all of our media properties (WUFT-FM, Country 103.7 The Gator, WRUF-TV, and @gatorweather on Twitter).
Long-Term Discussion (Through September 1)
Water temperatures are plenty warm, the dry Saharan air we were tracking back in July seems to be diminishing, and areas of convection (or thunderstorms) are occuring more frequently – all of these factors, combined with the idea that this is climatologically a favored time for storms, lend credence to the idea that we have some busy days ahead. How long this period of high activity will last, though, is a bit in question. NOAA now seems to be confident that an El Niño will develop, but says its strength or ability to impact the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season is difficult to determine. Given the quick start to the season, they raised their prediction for the number of storms to 12 to 17, approximately three higher than their earlier forecast for 9 to 15. Dr. William Gray, Professor Emeritus from Colorado State University, also raised his prediction for named storms from 10 to 14.
As we explained a few weeks ago, the impacts of an El Niño are usually far reaching and have the greatest influence during the tradition peak of a hurricane season, which is in September. Considering 2012 has already broken records for its fast start, it seems plausible that activity will be near or above normal for the season as a whole. The recent trends suggest, however, that storms will have a difficult time forming or moving near the Southeastern U.S. during the second half of the season. Nonetheless, we remain on a higher state of alert at WRUF considering the next three weeks could be quite active.