Atlantic Expected to See Uptick in Storms

By Courtney Spamer, Meteorologist
August 7, 2013; 6:21 AM ET
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The war between tropical waves and dry air in the Atlantic is expected to shift in the favor of developing systems in late August. However, so far the dry air is winning.

There are several features being watched in the short term.

One is a tropical wave over the eastern part of the Caribbean Sea. Another is a very weak disturbance that originated from the Great Plains of the U.S. and has drifted over the northern Gulf of Mexico. The third system being monitored is a storm in the upper atmosphere centered just north of Hispaniola that is moving rather swiftly along.

All three are drifting in a general east to west motion.

Through this weekend, the systems will be face-to-face with the same limiting factors that have been hindering tropical development in the Atlantic for the past month. However, conditions are a little more favorable for development in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, than in any other part of the Atlantic Basin.

If anything was to become of these three systems, it is likely to be low on the scale of storm organization and intensity. It is also likely that showers and thunderstorms will reach the Texas coast beginning this weekend, first from the Gulf disturbance and next from the storm in the upper atmosphere.

A massive Saharan Dust plume continues to push off the coast of Africa, covering much of the Atlantic. The dust is associated with dry, desert air, providing the opposite of the moisture-rich habitat needed for storms to strengthen.

Dry air feeding into a storm will ultimately weaken any tropical system.

Wind shear has also been fighting the tropical waves moving across the Atlantic. High winds continue to blow from west to east at mid-levels of the atmosphere, opposite of the usual pattern across the Caribbean. These opposing winds tend to shred storms that enter the region.

The most typical limiter for the early part of tropical season is water temperature. The water warms slower than the land, making late summer and early fall the time for the most favorable water temperature.

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However, recently, the water temperature has been a few degrees below average near the Antilles. Adding to the dust and shear, this has kept tropical season on lockdown.

Defeating all of these factors is close to impossible, but beating one of these features is definitely possible, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mark Paquette said.

"Dorian, when it formed in the open Atlantic, overcame an atmosphere laden with Saharan dust but was not dealing with the amount of shear systems would be right now," explained Paquette.

The Atlantic Basin seems to have had a rather quiet start to tropical season this year, but not so much when compared to normal.

The average number of named storms through the beginning of August is between two and three, a number we have already reached thus far this season.

On average, the number of storms rapidly increases later in August and through early September.

The number of tropical systems tends to peak during the end of summer and the first part of autumn. This is the average time, when the limiting factors diminish.

"The atmosphere in the tropical Atlantic will moisten up as this cloud of Saharan dust dissipates/heads west and climatology says shear will relax as well as we go through time. As these factors go away, the amount of systems will go up as well and it could go from not busy to very busy quickly," Paquette said.

Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed content to this story.

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