Tropical storm could develop over open waters of Atlantic

·4 min read

In Nicholas' wake, the Atlantic is still brimming with activity. On top of Tropical Storm Odette developing close to the United States, AccuWeather forecasters say there's another system that has a high chance of developing in the coming days. And beyond that, new threats were also on their radar.

A tropical wave located about 1,100 miles to the southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands has been designated as Invest 95L by the National Hurricane Center. It appeared to be very robust as it moved off the coast of Africa a couple of days ago with numerous heavy showers and thunderstorms, but there has been a key factor that may be responsible for preventing tropical development from having occurred through Friday.

This image, captured at midday on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, shows two tropical disturbances (tropical waves) over the central and eastern Atlantic. The mass of clouds, left of center of the image, has been designated Invest 95L by the National Hurricane Center for close monitoring. (CIRA at Colorado State/GOES-East)

"The disturbance is tracking across the central Atlantic at a rapid pace, and this likely explains why the system has yet to develop a well-defined low-level circulation," AccuWeather Meteorologist Randy Adkins said.

"As long as 95L is moving so rapidly, all development, if any, will be slow to occur," Adkins explained, adding "It likely would not take much of a reduction in forward speed to allow a better-defined circulation to develop at the surface, and it is expected that this system will slow down in the next couple of days."

AccuWeather forecasters say the system has a better than 50/50 chance of developing in the coming days.

As 95L approaches the waters northeast of the Leeward Islands this weekend, increasing wind shear and drier air may begin to exert a greater influence. "This could limit how strong 95L may become or may halt development altogether if not yet an organized tropical system," Adkins explained.

Even if the system remains poorly organized, locally drenching showers and gusty thunderstorms can spread westward across the Leeward Islands beginning late this weekend. Interests across the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico should continue to monitor this feature closely as it may pass close to or over the region early next week.

Islands in the Caribbean, particularly the small islands not large enough to produce their own thunderstorms, rely on weak tropical waves to bring needed rainfall and a break from the heat. The system dubbed 95L could provide just that early next week, provided the system does not hit as a potent tropical storm or hurricane.

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A couple of hundred miles of difference in track while it moves over the central and west-central Atlantic may determine if 95L, as a named system, will impact the East Coast of the United States later next week.

A large southward dip in the jet stream may create strong wind shear and westerly winds in general near the East Coast of the U.S. later next week. If this occurs and the system has taken a track well north of the Leeward Islands, it could be steered northward over the middle of the Atlantic. In this case, the system would not be a threat to the U.S.

Should the system take a more southern route through this weekend and into early next week, it could slip underneath the belt of westerly winds off the U.S East coast and potentially wander farther west near the islands over the northern Caribbean, Florida and perhaps even the Gulf of Mexico.

The next name on the list for the Atlantic basin is Peter.

Meanwhile, near the coast of Africa, the latest tropical wave was pushing offshore on Thursday. Steering breezes may direct this feature northward sooner rather than later.

"Drier air will be a limiting factor, and the latest indications are that this may provide a larger impact on this wave than previously thought," Adkins said.

As such, there is a low chance for development with this feature over the next several days, while it moves over the eastern Atlantic.

Despite the current tropical development in the Atlantic basin, rapid organization has slowed in recent days compared to prior weeks due to areas of strong wind shear.

"The current atmospheric pattern across the Atlantic remains unfavorable for the robust development of tropical systems," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

He cautioned that this pattern does not prevent development entirely, but rather it just makes it more difficult for organized tropical systems to take shape.

The Atlantic basin has generated 15 tropical storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) so far in 2021, and more are on the way. AccuWeather is projecting 20-25 named tropical storms with as many as 10 hurricanes and five to seven major hurricanes in 2021. One or two more systems may have a direct impact on the U.S., following eight so far.

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