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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 06/22/2010

Tropical trouble brewing?

By Greg Postel

* Heat and humidity heading higher: Full Forecast | NatCast *
* Monitor the tropics: CWG's Hurricane Tracking Station *

Satellite image of tropical disturbance in the Caribbean. Courtesy NOAA.

Though only 3 weeks old officially, the 2010 hurricane season may soon yield its first tropical cyclone (defined as a tropical depression or stronger). An area of disturbed weather in the southern Caribbean Sea, associated with a strong tropical wave, is showing signs of organization. The satellite picture above illustrates a large area of clouds and thunderstorms south of Hispaniola. It is this cloud cluster that we will monitor carefully in the next few days for additional development.

Atmospheric conditions in this region of the tropics are ripe for tropical cyclone development, with exceptionally warm water temperatures (at the surface as well as through the upper ocean layers), wind shear (variation of the wind with height) values insufficiently strong to provide much resistance to further organization, and high relative humidities through a deep atmospheric column. Some forecast models are growing this system into a tropical storm and moving it northwestward toward the Yucatan Channel (the strait between Mexico and Cuba) in about 5 days.

Keep reading for more on this disturbance...

Looking at the state of the tropics as a whole, one might expect to see the global-scale circulations that are capable of impacting hurricane development favorably configured, given the degree of agitation we're seeing in the Caribbean atmosphere. This is indeed the case with the MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation). The MJO is a tropical weather system the size of an entire ocean basin. It is intricately involved with varying the wind, sea surface temperatures, cloudiness, and rainfall in the hurricane development regions. During the next several days, the MJO will be nudging the tropical atmosphere in a way that favors tropical cyclone growth in precisely the region we're watching.

Though it still too early to know if this complex of showers and storms in the Caribbean will get a name, the signs are sufficiently clear to raise awareness of this potential outcome.

By Greg Postel  | June 22, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Tropical Weather  
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Greg, I am really glad you wrote on this. I have been very concerned since it popped up yesterday morning. I guess I should be glad for slow development? And it not being guaranteed to develop or track into the Gulf of Mexico? I will be watching it very warily. Dare we be discussing next week how this could obliterate BP as a company, but I could just be stirring up speculation.

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | June 22, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately I saw a projected track which takes it through the Yucatan passage and in the general direction of the oil-spill/relief wells zone. Not sure though how strong it might get or whether the oil already spilled could cut down on evaporation or available energy by coating the Gulf has been suggested in the past that hurricanes be controlled by spreading a surface oil slick in the path of an approaching storm to cut back on evaporation. (This may not work in the current case, as no evaporation-cutting surface slick has apparently developed.)

Posted by: Bombo47jea | June 22, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

hi Bombo47jea,

Regarding comments about potential mitigating effects of an oil slick ...

an oil slick probably can't do anything to affect a tropical cyclone's intensity above tropical storm strength ... with the wave/spray action breaking apart the oil to a degree that it has little impact on evaporation.


Posted by: gregpostel | June 22, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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