Trop­i­cal Storm Irma forms in At­lantic

An­other dis­tur­bance could oc­cur in the western Gulf of Mex­ico


A trop­i­cal dis­tur­bance that just left the African coast Sun­day has be­come the hur­ri­cane sea­son’s ninth named storm over the east­ern trop­i­cal At­lantic Ocean. The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter de­clared that Trop­i­cal Storm Irma had formed at 11 a.m. East­ern, and it is ex­pected to strengthen. It is many days away from any land, but should be mon­i­tored by in­ter­ests in the Caribbean and U.S.

Mean­while, a trop­i­cal sys­tem that could form in the western Gulf of Mex­ico near Louisiana and Texas early next week bears watch­ing.

Irma was po­si­tioned 420 miles west of the Cabo Verde Is­lands Wed­nes­day, with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 50 mph. It was track­ing west at 13 miles per hour.

Com­puter mod­els are in ex­cel­lent agree­ment that this storm will in­ten­sify in the com­ing days and could reach hur­ri­cane in­ten­sity by Fri­day or this week­end. It is still very far east — 2,100 miles east of the Lee­ward Is­lands — so there is plenty of time keep a watch­ful eye on it. Through the next four or so days, mod­els also agree on where it will track, but be­yond that, some po­ten­tially-im­por­tant di­ver­gence sets in.

The far­ther north it goes, the more likely it be­comes that it will re­curve to the north and away from land. But if it stays far­ther south, away from weak­nesses in a large area of high pres­sure in the sub­trop­ics (to its north), it can keep cruis­ing to­ward the Caribbean, Cen­tral Amer­ica, Mex­ico and pos­si­bly the United States.

His­tor­i­cally, over the past 50 years, the ninth named storm has formed Sept. 30, on av­er­age, so Irma is ex­actly one month ahead of par. Ac­cu­mu­lated Cy­clone En­ergy, or ACE, is an­other use­ful met­ric we com­monly use to as­sess how busy the hur­ri­cane sea­son is. It is a sin­gle value that in­te­grates in­for­ma­tion about all of the var­i­ous storms’ in­ten­si­ties over their en­tire life span. The ACE so far this hur­ri­cane sea­son is at only about 92 per­cent of av­er­age, de­spite Har­vey.

Har­vey’s ram­page in the Gulf of Mex­ico and South­east Texas aside, the hur­ri­cane sea­son is still young and just ap­proach­ing its peak.

An­other area we con­tinue to mon­i­tor is the north­west­ern Gulf of Mex­ico. Just days af­ter Har­vey moves out, an­other trop­i­cal dis­tur­bance or trop­i­cal cy­clone could move in. It does not yet ex­ist, but mod­els have con­sis­tently been hint­ing at a dis­tur­bance de­vel­op­ing in the Bay of Cam­peche and track­ing to­ward Texas by Wed­nes­day.

The lat­est run of the U.S. GFS model pro­duces 10 to 15 inches of rain in a swath span­ning south­east Texas through south­ern Louisiana. There is still a lot of un­cer­tainty with this sys­tem, but given the po­ten­tial, it is im­por­tant to be aware of it. If it de­vel­ops but tracks a bit fur­ther east, the Texas coast could be spared.

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