Tropics: Caribbean may not be quiet for long
After a quick burst of tropical activity just a couple of weeks ago, with Hurricane Alex and Tropical Depression (TD) #2 rolling across the western Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, much drier air has settled in across that region. In fact, recent satellite images across this part of the tropics show hardly any thunderstorm activity at all.
Keep reading for a preview of what may be brewing in the tropics...
Just to the west, however, over the Eastern Pacific, the atmosphere appears a bit more agitated. Showers and thunderstorms are widely distributed across this region. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is closely monitoring an area of disturbed weather off the southern coast of Mexico for possible development. Environmental conditions are indeed favorable for tropical cyclone genesis there (defined as a tropical depression or stronger), with wind shear values insufficiently strong to provide much resistance to the coherent organization of thunderstorms, and high relative humidities through a deep atmospheric column.
As we look at the state of the tropics as a whole, one might expect to see the global-scale circulations that are capable of promoting hurricane development in the eastern Pacific favorably configured, given the degree of thunderstorm activity we're seeing in that region. 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. Right now, the MJO is in a part of the tropics that favors tropical cyclone growth right where NHC is looking (the Eastern Pacific).
But here's the key. The forecasts for the MJO push it along toward that same area in the next 1-2 weeks where it fostered the eruption of thunderstorms over the western Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico that ultimately yielded Alex and TD#2.
While it may seem unlikely that activity will pick up in those same regions that are largely experiencing tranquil conditions with scattered tropical cumulus clouds right now, some of the signs that point toward change are sufficiently clear to raise awareness of this potential outcome.
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