Nigel develops massive eye as it churns in the central Atlantic
Nigel is transforming into a rare type of hurricane as it swirls over the Atlantic Ocean -- and it could have some company before the end of the week.
AccuWeather forecasters are monitoring the potential for tropical development near the East Coast late this week.
The sixth hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season -- Nigel -- developed a massive eye early this week as it continued its journey across the open waters of the central Atlantic, becoming a rare type of hurricane. AccuWeather hurricane experts have all the details on what this means for the storm and where it is heading in the coming days.
Nigel was churning roughly 505 miles southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, packing winds of 85 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane as of midday Thursday. The storm was moving rapidly to the northeast at 30 mph.
Nigel falls short of major hurricane status
The opportunity for Nigel to become the Atlantic basin's fourth major hurricane has diminished, according to forecasters. To be considered a major hurricane, Nigel would have needed to reach Category 3 status with maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
Despite the favorable environment with light winds and warm waters, dry air was being drawn into the storm's massive eye by Tuesday morning, which was putting a cap on its intensity. As Nigel fought against the dry air, it evolved into a rare breed of hurricane.
Nigel became an annular hurricane, or a hurricane with a large eye that almost looks like a truck tire or doughnut, AccuWeather Tropical Meteorologist Alex DaSilva explained.
"Research has shown that about 4% of all hurricanes become annular and they have only been classified and recognized since 2002," DaSilva said.
Other common traits of annular hurricanes are an absence of outer rain bands and a lower risk of large fluctuations in strength. These types of storms can also survive in slightly cooler waters than what is typical for tropical cyclones of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
At its peak strength, Nigel reached Category 2 hurricane strength with winds of 96-110 mph for a brief period of time through midweek.
"Large eyes in hurricanes do not necessarily mean that the storm is weaker. However, smaller 'pinhole' eyes are typically associated with stronger cyclones," DaSilva said. "Think of a figure skater who has their arms stretched out, they spin slow; however, when they pull their arms in they spin a lot faster. The same is true with hurricanes."
Path of Nigel
A non-tropical storm that drenched the Interstate 95 corridor of the Northeast at the start of the new week will tug Nigel northeastward during the latter part of the week. As the storm gets pulled northward, its forward motion will continue to accelerate.
United Kingdom may feel the storm's effects
Although Nigel is not expected to bring direct impacts to any landmasses, AccuWeather meteorologists say that the United Kingdom could experience indirect effects from the storm.
Life-threatening surf and rip currents are expected to gradually diminish for Bermuda on Thursday as large swells propagating outward from the center of Nigel decrease with the storm's circulation racing away from the archipelago.
“Beyond Bermuda, it is possible that Nigel survives as a tropical wind and rainstorm and brings impacts to the United Kingdom this weekend,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. “At the very least, Nigel will create a zone of rough seas and squalls as it churns northeastward over the North Atlantic and will remain a concern for shipping.”
Prior to any impact from Nigel, wind, downpours and stormy seas from Tropical Rainstorm Lee will swing across the U.K. during the middle days of this week, Sosnowski added.
Other areas of interest in the tropical Atlantic
Elsewhere across the basin, there are currently two areas where a tropical system could spin up later this week. One area with a high chance of tropical development is located across the eastern and central Atlantic as another tropical wave moves off the coast of Africa.
AccuWeather meteorologists designated another zone closer to the United States, off the Southeast coast, as a tropical wind and rainstorm. Regardless of whether it strengthens into a named tropical storm, heavy rain, strong winds and rough surf is likely for part of the Eastern Seaboard over the weekend.
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