Storm likely to move into Gulf of Mexico next week

The NBC2 First Alert Hurricane Tracking Team continues tracking a tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean Sea located along the northern coast of Venezuela.

The tropical wave, also referred to as Invest 98L, is not yet organized enough to be designated as a tropical depression.

However, over the last few hours, it has been able to develop a closed area of low-level circulation.

This means based on satellite data and surface observations, winds just above the Earth’s surface are starting to swirl around a central area which can help to kick off further organization down the road.

Related article: What does the term Invest 98L mean?

Based on the latest trends, the National Hurricane Center has raised the probability of this feature becoming at least a tropical depression in the next two days to 90%. The most likely scenario would have a system forming in the Caribbean Sea at some point tomorrow or Saturday south of Jamaica. If and when it becomes a tropical storm, Hermine is the next name on the 2022 tropical storm and hurricane naming list.

Conditions for tropical development are considered to be highly favorable in the Caribbean Sea for the next several days. The graphic below depicts the BHI, or Baron Hurricane Index.

The index takes into consideration conditions like the water temperatures in the ocean and the wind shear in the atmosphere.

These are both extremely important points to consider when determining the potential path and intensity of a budding tropical system.

When water temperatures are warm and wind shear is low, the environment is considered to be prime for tropical systems to develop. In the case of our tropical wave, the setup looks favorable for the quick development over the upcoming weekend.

Water temperatures in the Caribbean Sea are plenty warm enough for a tropical system to thrive.  Data indicates most of the basin is running between 85 and 86 degrees. 

For tropical development, sea surface temperatures only need to be warmer than 80 degrees.  

Given the warm water present in the Caribbean Sea and the likeliness of weak wind shear in the atmosphere, any storm moving through the northwest Caribbean Sea could become strong.

Unfortunately, most forecast models currently depict the system to move through this part of the sea by late Sunday and early Monday.

In the image below, different forecast models are plotted out with lines showing where a particular model thinks the center point of the system would be.

It’s important to point out here that there’s good agreement and high confidence in a forecast when the lines are close together.

Where the lines become more spaced apart, a lower amount of confidence can be placed in a given forecast.

This is especially the case when the lines enter the Gulf of Mexico, as there’s a wide range of outcomes that are still feasible at this point.

When considering well-known forecast models like the American and European, both depict a storm in the northwest Caribbean at the moment.

The image below shows where the latest operational American (GFS) and European (EURO) models show the center of the storm could be by Monday evening.

The latest guidance shows fairly close agreement, with a storm somewhere between the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and the western side of Cuba to start the work week.

If you look further into the forecast, you’ll notice a larger difference in the placement of the storm per the current model guidance.

By midnight Thursday morning, for instance, the European model is indicating a storm much closer to Florida with more impacts to our area than the American model.

The latest guidance of the American model shows a storm farther west of us deeper in the Gulf of Mexico.

It should go without saying, but make sure to remember when looking at forecast models that none of them know exactly what is going to happen.

They are guidance, not gospel. They change and update every few hours based on changing conditions in the atmosphere. Always take them with a grain of salt.

Use them to identify trends, especially this far out as any direct impacts to South Florida (should they happen at all) wouldn’t be until the middle of next week.

This is why the bottom line right now is that the entire Gulf coast from Florida to Texas should keep a close eye on this potential storm.

The best way to be prepared for a storm is before one even forms.

Given the possibility, now is a good time to review your hurricane plan as we monitor the storm’s progress and fine-tune the forecast.

You can brush up on your tropical weather knowledge using our NBC2 online hurricane guide+ here!

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