The calendar hasn’t even flipped to July yet, but the Atlantic is swarming with activity. Three tropical disturbances are all in varying stages of development, and it’s possible that the first Atlantic hurricane of 2022 will form by the end of the week.
Tropical storm warnings are up for Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Grenada and its dependencies, and watches have been issued for coastal stretches of Venezuela and Bonaire. That’s ahead of “Potential Tropical Cyclone 2,” a title assigned by the National Hurricane Center to connote predicted maturation into a named storm. It’ll probably breeze through the Lesser Antilles and intensify in the Caribbean, possibly making a run at hurricane strength.
On its heels is a second tropical wave, which is about 1,200 miles east of the Windward Islands. That one is unlikely to mature, but also highlights a general uptick in storminess.
A third disturbance is located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, and has a 30% chance of consolidating into a depression or named storm. It could bring heavy flooding rains to parts of the Texas coastline.
Peak hurricane season arrives in September, meaning we’re on the upswing of what atmospheric scientists and hurricane experts have already predicted to be an unusually active season. That marks the seventh busy season in a row.
Potential Tropical Cyclone 2. As of 8 a.m. Eastern, the disturbance that will likely become Bonnie was located about 330 miles east of Trinidad. It was moving west at a quick 23 mph, its forward speed having accelerated overnight.
Maximum winds near the core of the thunderstorm mass were around 40 mph, with a few higher gusts in the heavier squalls. That’s above the threshold for classification as a tropical storm, but the system still lacks a name. Why? It has to do with its structure – or lack thereof.
The system doesn’t seem to have a well-defined center. In fact, the National Hurricane Center wrote that “the disturbance continues to struggle” as a result. There are areas of spin at the low and mid levels of the atmosphere, but they’re not stacked into one complete, cohesive vortex. That’s the biggest limiting factor to the fledgling system’s intensity.
“While there is a ball of [thunderstorm activity] near the best surface center, GOES 1-min [satellite] data shows no signs of a well-defined center, and the mid-level circulation seems displaced a degree or more west of the [disturbance],” wrote the Hurricane Center.
In the coming 24 to 36 hours, the system will cross through the Windward Islands, dumping a general 1 to 3 inches with localized 6-inch totals.
Afterward, the storm may scrape along the northern edge of South America, which would preclude a more expedited strengthening of the system. That could delay it reaching tropical storm status until perhaps even Thursday, and potentially cut back on the intensity it can attain before eventual landfall in Central America.
By very late in the workweek, the system will be somewhere in the southwestern Caribbean preparing to make landfall in Costa Rica, Nicaragua or eastern Honduras. Flooding rains, with accumulations of 8 inches or more are possible, particularly in the higher terrain, which could result in mudslides.
The National Hurricane Center’s forecast calls for a landfall at 75 mph, meaning a marginal Category 1 storm, but that’s predicated on the system remaining far enough offshore of South America to remain intact. A closer shave or brush against the coastlines of Venezuela or northern Columbia could shred its inner circulation, impeding its strengthening into a hurricane.
Gulf System. A second system is bringing some offshore downpours to the northern Gulf of Mexico, but has only a 30% chance of acquiring some tropical characteristics. Located about 200 miles south-southeast of the Sabine River, or the Texas-Louisiana border, the system was roiling with thunderstorm activity early Tuesday. Satellite imagery suggested it was exhibiting some broad spin.
The system was born at the tail end of a decaying cold front, where it was able to tap into some leftover vorticity, or spin, derived from the wind shift along the front.
It most likely won’t have enough time over the Gulf of Mexico to grow into a named tropical storm, but it will come ashore as a waterlogged clump of downpours. That could deliver a general 4 to 6 inches of rain to much of coastal Texas, with a few 8-inch amounts possible. It’s still challenging to nail down exactly where the rainfall bull’s eye will be, but it’ll seemingly end up somewhere between Houston-Galveston and Matagorda Bay.
A few isolated waterspouts are possible, as well, near the coastline. Rain will begin to push ashore on Thursday, lingering through Saturday. A couple of pockets of urban and small stream flooding, or even localized flash flooding, are possible.
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