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A hurricane in June? Record heat in the Atlantic could make it happen

Tropical storms are quite common in the month of June. However, a system that originates from Africa and rapidly intensifies deep in the Atlantic is not something typically seen this early in the year. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon that has captured the attention of meteorologists worldwide. 

Currently, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) is closely watching a tropical disturbance located midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles. The unique weather event holds a strong potential of evolving into a tropical depression as the week continues.

Designated as 92L for tracking objectives, this system emerged as a vibrant tropical wave off the western coast of Africa just last week. The wave’s thunderstorms, embedded within this disturbance, have become notably more vigorous and organized over the weekend. This uptick in activity is boosting forecasters’ confidence in the possible development of a tropical depression in the near future.

Conditions are right for tropical storm development 

Several atmospheric factors, such as unusually low wind shear, ample moisture content, and exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures, are expected to provide the perfect ingredients for a storm. These conditions could help the system defy the odds and become more organized as the week unfolds.

A robust ridge of high pressure, comfortably situated over the central Atlantic Ocean, is anticipated to steer this system in a west-northwest trajectory through the middle of the upcoming workweek. This could potentially lead to the second named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which will be called “Bret.”

Potential impacts are unknown 

The potential impact this system could have on land remains uncertain at this juncture. Current models suggest that the system could linger for a considerable duration. Coastal dwellers from Aruba to Canada are advised to keep a vigilant eye on the progress of the system as it moves across the vast Atlantic Ocean.

While this could mark the season’s second named storm, it would technically be the third storm of the season. The first system was an unnamed subtropical storm that materialized south of Nova Scotia in January. It slipped under the radar, with forecasters deciding to record it retrospectively upon data review in mid-May.

Record heat could lead to an active storm season

An unusual thermal anomaly is currently sweeping the Atlantic Ocean, with temperatures considerably warmer than the norm, a trend that has taken even seasoned experts by surprise. Although the rapidly expanding El Niño phenomenon would typically suppress Atlantic hurricane activity, the Atlantic’s unexpected warmth may offset this effect, potentially stimulating an active storm season.

Traditionally, tropical activity escalates through the summer months, reaching its zenith between mid-August and mid-September. However, storms are plausible anytime from now until at least the end of November.

The geographical location of this storm is what makes it exceptional. Early-season tropical storms usually materialize in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, or the far western Atlantic. 

As the summer progresses, the sphere of tropical activity extends further east into the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The stretch of the Atlantic lying between the Lesser Antilles and the Cabo Verde Islands is often recognized as the main development region. 

Powered by the annual sub-Saharan African monsoon, thunderstorm clusters roll off the continent’s west coast routinely. These tropical waves drift into the Atlantic’s main development region, where the summer sun stabilizes the atmosphere and heats the sea surface, setting the stage for storm development and growth.

Just three other storms have formed this far east in June

Since reliable hurricane records were initiated in the late 1800s, only three other tropical storms have formed this far east in the Atlantic during June. In 1933, a June hurricane originated in the far eastern Atlantic and went on to impact Trinidad, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1979, Tropical Storm Ana emerged just east of the Lesser Antilles – a path which was also taken by Tropical Storm Bret in June of 2017.

These rare weather events, alongside the developing system we are witnessing today, serve as stark reminders of the unpredictable nature of our planet’s weather patterns and the crucial role our oceans play in their formation. 

In this era of escalating sea surface temperatures, it is crucial to keep a close watch on tropical storm activities and patterns. The ongoing developments in the Atlantic Ocean, and potential Tropical Storm Bret, highlight the complex climate dynamics that we are now experiencing.

More about tropical storms

Tropical storms are a type of storm that typically form over warm ocean waters near the equator. These storms are characterized by strong winds, heavy rain, and thunderstorms. They’re part of a larger category of storms known as tropical cyclones, which also includes hurricanes and typhoons.

Tropical storms form when a pre-existing weather disturbance, such as a tropical wave, meets warm ocean waters, creating an area of low pressure. As this low pressure area moves across the ocean, it can pick up moisture and heat, causing the air at the center to rise. When the air rises, it creates an area of low pressure underneath it, which draws in the surrounding air and produces wind.

As more warm, moist air is drawn into the storm, it continues to rise and cool, causing water vapor to condense and form clouds and rain. This process releases heat, which warms the surrounding air, causing it to rise as well. This cycle of evaporation and condensation drives the storm’s growth and intensification.

Once sustained wind speeds reach 39 to 73 miles per hour (34 to 63 knots), the storm is classified as a tropical storm and given a name by the World Meteorological Organization.

Tropical storms can cause considerable damage due to their strong winds, heavy rain, and the potential for flooding, particularly in coastal regions. These storms can also spawn tornadoes, which can cause additional damage.

Forecasting the formation and track of tropical storms is a complex process that involves monitoring atmospheric conditions, ocean temperatures, and weather patterns. Improved forecasting methods and technologies have helped to increase the warning time for these storms, but they still pose a significant threat to life and property in many parts of the world.

Tropical storms are called “hurricanes” in the Atlantic and the northeastern Pacific Ocean, “typhoons” in the northwestern Pacific, and “cyclones” in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean. These terms describe the same type of storm, just in different parts of the world.


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