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    Watching the Tropical Atlantic Later in May

    By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist.
    May 20, 2012, 5:50:46 AM EDT

    While an area in the Eastern Pacific has yielded the first tropical cyclone of the 2012 season, the Caribbean could show some signs of life later this month.

    A broad area of low pressure is expected to form very slowly in the area around Central America and the western Caribbean.

    Folks living in the region around Central America to Cuba, Jamaica, The Bahamas and South Florida should not be overly concerned at this point.

    Chances are this system will never become strong or well organized.

    However, it could spread a swath of downpours over the region. Even a weak, disorganized system can produce clusters of heavy, gusty thunderstorms, which would be a problem for pleasure boaters, beach goers and fishing interests.

    According to Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski, "This is likely to end up like about a dozen or so systems during the season that do not reach tropical storm status."

    "The system will not have any tropical waves coming in from the east to give it a jump start, but a non-tropical feature arriving from the northwest next week may just help create a broad area of low pressure or gyre," Kottlowski added.

    We are in a neutral phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This is the fluctuation of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

    SEE ALSO : AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center 2012

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    When the tropical Pacific surface water is warmer than average, it is considered an El Nino, When it is cooler than average it is considered La Nina.

    During an El Nino, (warm water phase) air tends to rise over the tropical Pacific Ocean, supporting the formation of tropical cyclones. Correspondingly, air tends to sink over the Atlantic, working against the formation of tropical cyclones.

    It tends to work just the opposite during a La Nina phase of the ENSO.

    "Since we are in a neutral phase, we should not expect any substantial interference or gain at this point of the season by the ENSO," Kottlowski said.

    The start of the Atlantic hurricane season is not until June 1, but tropical storms have formed as early as January and February with hurricanes as early as March.

    This story was first published on Friday, May 11, 2012 and has been updated.

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