‘Tis the season as tropical activity in the Atlantic basin begins to perk up — at least for now — as we track Hurricane Beryl and Invest 96L. The main takeaways on both of these storms is that they will not be hugely impactful, but minor effects from these storms will still be felt both.
As of the 11am EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Beryl is a category one hurricane with sustained winds of up to 80 mph. This storm intensified fast, evolving from a tropical depression Thursday morning to now a hurricane. The main reason for this is how small the storm’s circulation is, as well as the conducive environment it has moved into. The GOES-16 geocolor satellite image captured shortly after sunrise this morning illustrates how tiny the core of this storm is. For comparison, it is about the same size as the island of Puerto Rico.
Located several hundred miles east of the Caribbean, this storm will track to the north and west over the Lesser Antilles now as a hurricane Sunday night. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center suggest this storm intensifies into a category two storm upon impacts to these islands. Therefore, damaging winds and heavy rain will be possible for some of the Leeward and Windward Islands. Beyond then, the storms will track near the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, possibly as a strong tropical storm as the environment remains quite conducive for this storm to keep itself together. Residents in Puerto Rico are urged to stay calm but 424 shelters have been opened up because impacts from this storm are increasingly likely. Once it tracks toward the US, Beryl should denigrate into a tropical wave and should track out to sea.
So how unusual is this storm? According to Philip Klotzbach, a tropical scientist at Colorado State University, Beryl is the 2nd earliest calendar year hurricane in the tropical Atlantic (<20°N, 60-20°W) on record, trailing only 1933. She became a hurricane about a month ahead of the typical first Atlantic hurricane (August 10). Beryl also contains the strongest winds for an Atlantic tropical cyclone this far south (10.4°N) in July on record. Water temperatures where Beryl formed are cooler than average, currently at around 25.6°C. About 5% of all Atlantic tropical cyclones have formed in colder than 26°C SSTs on average, and most of these form much further north. Lastly, it is the furthest southeast a named storm has formed this early in the hurricane season on record.
The second area of the Atlantic that we’re watching, even more carefully than Hurricane Beryl, is Invest 96L. This invest is basically an area of disturbed weather that the National Hurricane Center is keeping a sharp eye on for potential tropical development. The main reason why this one is really worth watching is because this disturbance is located just a few hundred miles off the East Coast of the US. The chances for development have been fluctuating this week, peaking at 60 percent on Wednesday. Now its chances are at it’s highest, at around 80 percent. The National Hurricane Center says, “Environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for additional development of this system, and a tropical depression is likely to form over the next couple of days while the system moves slowly northwestward and stalls or meanders near the coast of North Carolina over the weekend.”
The proximity of this tropical disturbance to the coast is what makes this storm interesting. There is currently a very broad area of low pressure off the Southeast coast. As it drifts to the north and west, closer to the Outer Banks, pressures are expected to fall by several millibars as the thunderstorms become further organized around the center of the low. By this point, which is on Sunday the earliest, we may have a tropical depression or perhaps a tropical storm, although most of the models keep this storm very weak. This storm will likely not make landfall on the coast, but it will meander offshore from the Carolinas now through at least Tuesday before it gets pushed out to sea by late-week.
The main risks from this potential tropical cyclone are rip currents, rough surf, and occasional rain showers. Winds may also become gusty at times depending on how close the center of this low pressure gets to the coast.
Despite this uptick in tropical activity this week, that doesn’t mean the rest of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be active. In fact, most forecasts suggests below-normal tropical cyclone activity in this basin this year, which is great news on the heels of the very-active 2017 season. As always, prepare ahead of time just in case a storm strikes.