Signs Pointing Toward More Active Tropics

By Michael Doll, Meteorologist
August 22, 2013; 5:00 AM
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Although we have entered the heart of hurricane season from a climatological standpoint, the Atlantic Basin remains void of tropical storms and hurricanes at this time.

The most active part of the season is typically from mid-August through September. During this time, it is common for clusters of rain and thunderstorms to move westward off Africa and into the eastern Atlantic.

These tropical waves can intensify as they move westward over the warm Atlantic water and become tropical cyclones.

Over recent weeks, several waves have moved off Africa and into the Atlantic. However, a couple of factors have precluded the development of strong tropical storms and hurricanes.

The presence of strong wind shear and Saharan dust during much of the season to this point has helped limit development.

Tropical Storm Erin formed late last week just west of Africa, but the system found the environment too hostile to sustain itself.

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Within 24 hours after its formation, it weakened to a tropical depression and never regained strength.

The airborne dust and dry air that gets carried over the Atlantic suppresses thunderstorm development, which is a precursor to tropical development.

Other areas in the tropics that can be breeding grounds for tropical systems, such as the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and the south-central portion of the Atlantic Basin, have lacked abundant moisture. This has reduced the ability for large complexes of thunderstorms to develop.

While it will remain quiet in the short-term, there are indications that the tropics could become more active late next week.

The limiting factors, such as wind shear and dry Saharan air, do tend to lessen as September approaches. This should allow for an increase in thunderstorm development over the tropics and help tropical waves to strengthen into tropical storms and hurricanes.

So far this season, there have been five named storms in the Atlantic Basin, none of which have become hurricanes. On average, there is typically around four named storms by Aug. 20th.

The next tropical storm that develops will take the name of Fernand.


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