Tropical Storm Henri throwing Bermuda a curve ball
"H" named storms are no stranger to powerful storms during hurricane season. We look back at the history of destructive "H" storms that includes Hurricane Harvey back in 2017.
After nearly a month of no tropical activity over the Atlantic Ocean, the basin was bursting to life by mid-August. A third tropical system, Tropical Storm Henri, developed late Monday afternoon near Bermuda, joining Fred and Grace. Henri (pronounced: ahn-REE) was initially a tropical depression that took shape on Sunday, but continued to strengthen and became the eighth named storm of the 2021 hurricane season.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Bermuda as Henri was located 160 miles south-southwest of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds at 65 mph as of 5 a.m. EDT Wednesday. This is up from 40 mph from earlier Tuesday morning. Henri was moving to the west at 8 mph.
Tropical Storm Henri is forecast to take a curved path around Bermuda, and it is likely to continue to strengthen and become better organized as it does so. As such AccuWeather meteorologists predict that Henri will become a hurricane by late in the weekend.
The main impacts from this tropical system on Bermuda will be to generate rough seas and surf that can pose hazards to small craft operations and bathers around the islands.
This wide angle view of the tropical Atlantic shows Tropical Depression Fred (upper left), Tropical Storm Henri (upper right) and Tropical Storm Grace (lower center) as of Tuesday morning, Aug. 17, 2021. (CIRA at Colorado State/GOES-East)
"Squalls with heavy rain and gusty winds may periodically pivot across the islands as the system will loop to the southwest and then turn northward and eventually northeastward," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
As of Tuesday, Henri was not expected to be a direct threat to North America but there will be indirect impacts.
As with any tropical storm, the churning effect of the wind on the water will cause swells to radiate outward from Henri. "The storm might be around long enough and get strong enough to cause an uptick in wave action and correspondingly rough surf and strong rip currents from the Carolinas to Massachusetts from Thursday to Saturday," Anderson said.
The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was keeping pace with the record 2020 season early this summer but fell behind when the typical tropical doldrums set in during July. According to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist and hurricane expert at Colorado State University, only two other Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1966, the dawn of the satellite era, have seen eight or more named storms develop by Aug. 16: 2005 and 2020, which set a record for the most named storms ever.
After Tropical Storm Henri formed near Bermuda on Monday afternoon, the Atlantic basin featured three active tropical systems all at once. (AccuWeather)
It is not highly unusual for there to be three tropical systems spinning in the Atlantic at the same time, but it is not common. The maximum is five at the same time, most recently in mid-September 2020 when Hurricane Paulette, Tropical Storm Sally, Tropical Storm Teddy, Tropical Storm Vicky and Tropical Depression Rene were all alive and active. Prior to 2020, September 1971 almost had six named storms going at the same time with Edith, Fern, Ginger Heidi, Irene and an unnamed system near the coast of Africa.
With the latest surge in developing systems in August, the 2021 season is gaining some ground on last year's record pace once again but is not likely to catch up. In 2020, there was a record-setting 30 named tropical systems.
In 2020, the "H" storm, Hanna, formed weeks earlier on July 24. By the middle of August, the 2020 season had already churned out 11 named storms after Kyle developed on Aug. 14, 2020.
Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE, takes into account the maximum sustained winds and the duration of each tropical storm and hurricane and assigns a value. As of Aug. 17, the ACE for the 2021 season is 16.3, compared to an average of 13.7. The end-of-season average for a hurricane season is 105.6 ACE, but in 2020 ACE reached 180.4. The all-time record holder for seasonal ACE is 2005 with 250.1.
AccuWeather meteorologists expect the brisk, but sub-record pace of tropical systems to continue through the heart of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with a total of 16-20 named systems, of which 14 are predicted to strengthen into hurricane strength. Hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30, but activity could continue beyond that date.
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