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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Likelihood of next Atlantic tropical depression drops slightly

UPDATED: Wed., July 5, 2017

By Brett Clarkson Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Atlantic Ocean’s next tropical depression has a good chance of forming either Wednesday night or on Thursday, forecasters said.

But those chances had dropped slightly on Wednesday afternoon, from 70 percent to 60 percent.

The potential depression was also far from Florida – about 3,000 miles away.

“No reason to be concerned at this time,” said John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

As of Wednesday morning, the cluster of storms and clouds that would become the depression was out in the Central Atlantic, about 850 miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Africa.

But that smattering of wet weather is surrounded by a mass of dry air and dust from Africa’s Sahara Desert. A tropical system needs moisture to stay alive, so if a tropical depression does form, it looks like it wouldn’t have much of a chance of strengthening or lasting long, Cangialosi said.

“The thinking here is that this would likely not be a very strong system,” Cangialosi said.

But as with any area of interest in the tropics – this one is known as Invest 94L – there are the so-called spaghetti models that, using different types of data, depict various future weather scenarios including where and when a system could be headed.

The models generally have it tracking northwest through the open Atlantic on a northwest path that would take it several hundred miles north of the eastern Caribbean and the Dominican Republic by about seven days from now.

Of course, by then it could be nothing more than some rain and clouds. But again, it was too early to say.

Hurricane forecasters routinely warn that these models are anything but reliable this far in advance. South Florida residents are advised to not pay so much attention to them at this point, Cangialosi said.

And according to the popular Hurricane Tracker App, the chance Florida will be impacted stands at 1 percent.

The term “tropical cyclone” is an umbrella term that refers to a closed-circulation, rotating system of clouds and thunderstorms that, depending on its intensity, can be a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane.

A tropical depression is the least powerful form of tropical cyclone, with maximum winds of 38 mph or less. Hurricanes, the most powerful incarnation of a cyclone, have winds of at least 74 mph.

The 2017 hurricane season has so far seen three named storms: tropical storms Arlene, Bret, and Cindy.

The next named storm will be Don.

Although it’s been a busy start to the hurricane season, forecasters say it’s not necessarily a sign of what’s to come. A busy June doesn’t mean the rest of the hurricane will be busy or quiet. It just means June was busy. Devastating storms can also happen during quiet seasons, as evidenced by Hurricane Andrew, which became the 1992 hurricane season’s first named storm in mid-August.

That said, academic and government experts have said they expect the 2017 hurricane season to be above average in terms of its number of storms. They also urge residents in hurricane-prone areas to prepare early instead of waiting until a storm is here.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, but forecasters also say that although it’s not as common, a storm can form at any point – as seen in April with Arlene.

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