Now that Alex is all gone, when might the next tropical storm develop?
Alex has already taken shape, but AccuWeather meteorologists are already looking ahead to the next tropical threat.
The warm waters near Central America will remain a prime zone for potential tropical activity over the next couple of weeks, AccuWeather meteorologists say.
The first week of the Atlantic hurricane season yielded the first tropical storm of the season when Alex formed early Sunday morning. The system continued to strengthen, eventually producing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph east of Florida Sunday night, just 4 mph below the minimum threshold of a Category 1 hurricane.
Prior to becoming an official tropical storm, Alex brought about 8-16 inches of rain and caused major urban flooding in South Florida, including Miami, this past weekend.
Experts say that Alex's development served as an example that a well-organized tropical system is not needed to have a significant impact on lives and property. The system was not officially upgraded to a tropical storm until its center was well to the northeast of the Florida Peninsula.
The seeds of Alex were planted a couple of weeks earlier in waters surrounding Central America. Tropical moisture and a slowly spinning area of weak low pressure called the Central American gyre went on to produce Hurricane Agatha in the eastern Pacific during late May. As Agatha moved inland over southern Mexico and fell apart, its leftover energy and moisture eventually led to the tropical rainstorm that eventually became Tropical Storm Alex.
Much of Central America was invaded by dry air over the weekend that has all but wiped away the gyre. However, forecasts show that a gradual uptick in moisture will occur in this zone over the next week, and the gyre could make a comeback.
This image captured on Monday, June 6, 2022, shows a lack of clouds over the western Caribean and the southern Gulf of Mexico. (GOES-East/NOAA)
According to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, another slow-developing tropical system could take shape during the middle of June as a tropical wave moves westward into the waters surrounding Central America. AccuWeather long-range forecasters have been scouring these waters near Central America for weeks and frequently cited the area as a source of early-season tropical activity.
Tropical development around Central America in mid-June is not a certainty. Just as the case with Agatha and Alex, there is also the chance that a tropical system could take shape on the Pacific side instead of the Atlantic side.
Thunderstorm activity at the start of the week in the region was primarily unfolding over the Pacific side of Central America. That could be a sign that the next tropical system may form over the eastern Pacific south of Mexico within the next week. AccuWeather forecasters will continue to closely monitor this possibility.
As moisture rebounds over Central America and southern Mexico in the coming days, showers and thunderstorms will increase in number and intensity.
If a weak low pressure area were to develop, it would be enough to help guide rainfall in part of the region and lead to torrential downpours that can trigger flash flooding and mudslides. A tropical disturbance would also lead to locally gusty thunderstorms and rough seas.
The formation and track of a tropical system are highly speculative at this point. The system may not take the same track as Alex did as a tropical rainstorm. For example, the system could form and then move inland over Mexico or other countries in Central America.
The next predetermined name on the list for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is Bonnie. In the East Pacific, the next name on the list is Blas.
Wind shear, or the presence of strong breezes at middle and high levels of the atmosphere, could prove to be too strong to allow development on the Atlantic side of Central America and southern Mexico.
One of the key differences between the potential development of a new tropical system and the rainstorm that became Alex this past weekend is forward speed. Alex moved fairly quickly and brought a period of heavy rain to South Florida that lasted about 24 hours.
Forecasters say that steering winds in the tropics are likely to become weaker in the coming weeks as a result of a weakening jet stream, which tends to occur during the summer. Any tropical system that develops may tend to move more slowly compared to Alex, and the slower movement could lead to even more excessive rain compared to what Alex produced in some locations.
AccuWeather's team of long-range forecasters continues to emphasize the likelihood of an above-average tropical Atlantic hurricane season and not only in terms of the numbers of named storms and hurricanes but also concerning the risk of direct impacts on the United States.
There is some indication that Florida will remain a hot spot and the northern Caribbean could become a hot spot in terms of direct impacts, according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski. "I am very worried about a major hurricane direct hit or multiple hits on Puerto Rick and the Virgin Islands this season," he said.
So far this season, a large area of high pressure over the Atlantic has been forcing tropical waves that move westward from Africa very far to the south. "Most of these waves have had little impact over the northern Caribbean, northern Central America, southern Mexico and the southern Gulf of Mexico as a result," Pastelok said.
"Moving forward this hurricane season, the high pressure area is likely to shift farther north, allow the tropical waves to shift northward and then potentially spur development farther to the north across the Caribbean," Pastelok explained.
Including Alex, AccuWeather's tropical and long-range groups of meteorologists are expecting from 16 to 20 named storms with six to eight expected to strengthen into hurricanes in the Atlantic. Of the tropical storms and hurricanes, about four to six are likely to directly impact the U.S.
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