Late-season development in Atlantic could become 31st named storm

Courtney Spamer

With November almost over and the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season nearing, AccuWeather meteorologists continue to monitor an area of disturbed weather over the middle of the ocean that could become the next named storm of the 2020 season.

This year's hurricane season has been not only hyperactive when compared to normal, but also a record-breaker. The 30th storm of the season was Iota, which charged into Nicaragua on Nov. 16 as a Category 4 hurricane with 155-mph winds. However, since Iota dissipated over Central America, tropical activity has slowed considerably across the Atlantic basin.

Despite the late-season doldrums, forecasters remain focused on the possibility that another storm could take shape over the central Atlantic in the near future.

This image, captured on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, shows a weak disturbance several hundred miles east of Bermuda. (NOAA/GOES-East)

A specific disturbance that forecasters have been watching closely over the last several days is located several hundred miles east of Bermuda.

This disturbance has all-but missed its chance to strengthen so far this weekend and continued to remain disorganized through the first half of the holiday weekend. There remains a slight chance this disturbance is able to pull itself together on Sunday, but the window of opportunity for this to occur is nearly closed.

"It is not completely out of the question that the tropical disturbance well to the east of Bermuda could become a subtropical or even tropical depression before the end of November," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert. "However, it is more likely that this disturbance will fizzle out by the end of this weekend."

A subtropical system has both tropical and non-tropical characteristics. Subtropical systems may draw a considerable amount of dry air into their circulation and may be more spread out in nature, when compared to tropical systems and may have a poor structure overall.

At present, AccuWeather meteorologists believe the chance of the disturbance becoming a tropical or subtropical depression has decreased to about 10%, but that could change as the weekend progresses.

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"Wind shear is forecast to increase where the system is expected to track, which would cause it to weaken or prevent it from forming if it misses its chance in the coming days." said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Lead Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

Wind shear is the increase in strength or change in direction of breezes from near the sea surface to high in the atmosphere and/or the same in the horizontal through the atmosphere. Strong wind shear can prevent a tropical system from forming or cause an established tropical system to weaken.

Whether a defined tropical feature forms or not, strong westerly winds would likely keep any system that forms so far out in the Atlantic away from North America, preventing any impacts from reaching land.

AccuWeather meteorologists are also keeping an eye on two other possible development areas for next week. One system may evolve northwest of Africa early in the week and the other could pop up over the southwestern part of the Caribbean Sea, near the coast of Central America during the middle or latter part of the week.

These disturbances have a low possibility, 30% or less, of developing into defined systems at present, but if conditions change, the risk of development may increase or decrease.

The next names on the list of Greek letters being utilized this season are Kappa, Lambda and Mu.

The 30 named storms thus far during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season shattered the previous record of 28 storms from the notorious 2005 hurricane season, which produced storms such as Katrina, Rita and Wilma. In addition, another record was set this season with 12 named storms making landfall along U.S. coastlines. Five of those landfalls were in Louisiana.

Should a depression form in the area southeast of Bermuda later this weekend or at some other point in the Atlantic in the weeks ahead, 2020 would be in sole possession of the record-high number of tropical depressions, surpassing 2005's count of 31. The 2005 season also holds the record for hurricanes with 15 and major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) with seven. So far in 2020, there have been 13 hurricanes with six of those reaching major hurricane status.

The season will officially conclude on Nov. 30, but forecasters caution that it's not unrealistic that a post-season storm could form in December. In the 2005 season, there were two named systems that roamed the Atlantic in December, including one, Epsilon, that became a hurricane.

Even if a storm forms after Nov. 30 through the end of Dec. 31, it would be considered to be part of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

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