Tropical Storm Josephine on cusp of forming in Atlantic
The newest tropical storm will have some environmental hurdles to overcome, but it could reach hurricane status as it churns over the Atlantic.
A disturbance spinning over the middle of the Atlantic organized enough to be named Tropical Depression 11 at 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. AccuWeather meteorologists expect it to go on to strengthen into a tropical storm on Thursday, becoming another one for the record books.
Tropical Depression 11, which began as a batch of heavy storms that forecasters have been monitoring for days, was moving to the west at 15 mph and was located 1,135 miles to the east of the northern Leeward Islands during Wednesday midday. The system's maximum sustained winds were 35 mph.
Tropical Depression 11 was on the cusp of strengthening into Tropical Storm Josephine on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 12, 2020. (AccuWeather)
The next name on the list of tropical storms for this year in the Atlantic is Josephine.
Since this feature is likely to soon become a tropical storm, it would then shatter the early-season formation record for the J-named storm in the basin. The current record belongs to Jose, which developed on Aug. 22, 2005. Josephine from this season could beat that mark by 10 days.
Tropical storms are named for most letters of the alphabet, with the exception of Q, U, X, Y and Z. The infamous 2005 Atlantic hurricane season holds the record for the greatest number of named storms at 28 and still holds the record for early-season formation records for the "K-storm," which was Katrina on Aug. 24, as well as the letters M through T, V and W. After W, Greek letters are used. Since 2005 was the only year to use Greek letters, that season holds the early-season formation records beyond W.
However, the 2020 hurricane season as already left its mark on the history books multiple times so far with storms Cristobal, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna and Isaias all setting early-season formation records. Except for Cristobal, the storms bumped off record-setters from the 2005 season. The prior earliest C-named storm was Colin from 2016.
"Conditions will be favorable for some strengthening as a tropical storm into the end of this week," Kottlowski said.
"We expect this system to move on a curved path to the west-northwest and then to the northwest in the coming days," Kottlowski stated.
This projected path could take the systems relatively close to the Leeward Islands in the northeastern part of the Caribbean this weekend.
Even if the center of the storm stays over the open water, the system could pass close enough to bring heavy rain and strong winds to parts of the Leeward Islands.
"Until the system fully develops, the center of the long-range EyePath® might be misleading and all interests in the Lesser Antilles, especially the Leeward Islands should closely monitor the progress of this system," Kottlowski said.
A weaker, poorly-organized system, such as a depression is more likely to drift more to the west, but a stronger, better-organized system, such as a strong tropical storm or hurricane, is more likely to turn more to the northwest over time.
The clock may be ticking on the system's lifespan as the feature is forecast to move in a general direction of increasing wind shear and some dry air during the weekend.
Strong wind shear is a deterrent for tropical systems as these strong breezes at different levels in the atmosphere can rip apart organized systems or prevent tropical features from developing altogether.
There is a zone of moderate wind shear hovering over the Caribbean and in areas to the north of the northern islands of the Caribbean.
"There is a good chance that as this feature, regardless of its organization and strength into Friday, would begin to unravel in the zone of wind shear and drier air this weekend," Kottlowski said.
There is also a chance that dry air, nearby to the north of the feature, becomes ingested, and the system never really gains enough steam to strengthen much beyond tropical depression strength.
Additional disturbances, known as tropical waves, will continue to move from the Indian Ocean, across Africa and then over the Equatorial Atlantic Ocean in the coming days, weeks and months.
This image from Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, shows dry air as patches of yellow, orange and red. Moist areas show up as shades of blue, gray and white. The tropical depression is right of center in the lower portion of the image and is a bright white circular patch. (CIMSS / GOES-East)
This train of disturbances makes up what is known as the Cabo Verde season, which is named for the group of islands just off the northwest coast of Africa. The Cabo Verde season makes up the backbone of the Atlantic hurricane season during the period from late August to the first part of October.
In the short term, there will be a continued risk for one or more of these systems to organize and potentially evolve into a tropical depression or storm. But for the time being, the buffer of wind shear over the Caribbean and across part of the southwestern Atlantic may act as a shield and prevent systems from getting too close to United States waters and coastal areas.
However, that buffer zone may not last long.
The lid could come off the Atlantic basin with the potential for multiple named systems spinning at the same time, including multiple threats to lives and property at the same time from the Caribbean to North America, as early as late August.
AccuWeather meteorologists are expecting a hyperactive year for tropical storms and hurricanes -- enough that Greek letters may once again be needed. Due to 2020's record pace and upcoming conditions expected in the basin, in early August, AccuWeather meteorologists upped their forecast for the number of tropical storms, with up to 24 now predicted, and up to 11 hurricanes projected for the season.
The climatological peak for the Atlantic hurricane season is around Sept. 10.
Meanwhile, in the East Pacific Ocean, Elida strengthened into the basin's next hurricane. The storm stayed at sea and became post-tropical on Wednesday evening and is expected to dissipate entirely by the end of the week.
Kottlowski is expecting the eastern Pacific to "go wild with tropical activity over the next several weeks" and the Atlantic may follow suit toward the end of August and into the autumn months.
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