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Atlantic disturbance organizing but potential Caribbean disturbance is of most interest

Satellite image of Atlantic and Gulf tropics on Oct. 17, 2020.
Satellite image of Atlantic and Gulf tropics on Oct. 17, 2020. (WPLG)

A non-tropical system in the middle of the Atlantic has a clear, strong circulation. It’s very close to being tropical enough and organized enough – meaning thunderstorms become concentrated around the center – for the National Hurricane Center to begin advisories.

It will likely be named a “subtropical” depression or storm because it will start out with remnants of its non-tropical roots. Non-tropical storms are the type that form in the north, like nor’easters. The next name on the list Greek-alphabet letters is Epsilon.

The storm is not expected to directly affect the U.S., the Bahamas, or the Caribbean islands, but Bermuda will have to keep an eye on the future track.

The area of more interest is the southwestern Caribbean Sea. There is nothing remarkable there right now. In fact, the upper-level winds are not at all supportive of an organized tropical system. After the weekend, however, the consensus of the computer forecast models is that the atmospheric conditions will become more conducive for tropical development.

Twitter has been aflame because the U.S. GFS computer forecast model seems to insist a fairly strong storm will form and move north across Cuba and the Bahamas – too close to Florida for comfort – eight or nine days from now. All of the angst is wasted energy, however.

First, other prominent and credible computer forecasts are wildly different, with most showing the system staying fairly weak. And second, the average errors in forecasts a week or more in advance are many hundreds of miles.  That’s why the National Hurricane Center doesn’t make specific forecasts for tropical systems past 5 days.

We have to wait and see what develops in the next few days. If a system gets started, then the certainty in the computer forecasts should improve, and, hopefully, a consensus will develop.

Otherwise, nothing significant is expected to develop into the middle of next week.


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