The "season starter?"
Posted June 14, 2010 7:22 a.m. EDT
It's too soon to be certain whether it will become the first tropical cyclone or named storm (Alex) of the 2010 season, but a rather strong low pressure wave has made it's way off the west African coast over the past day or two and is now moving into the "main development region" southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, and in the process has caught the close attention of the National Hurricane Center. They are estimating about a 60 percent chance of the storm developing into a tropical cyclone early this week.
Historically, this time of year and this early in the hurricane season most new storms develop over the western Atlantic, the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico, often in a transformation from a weakening non-tropical low, or from swirling winds in the vicinity of a decaying frontal boundary that gain organization and intensity as the air absorbs heat and moisture from ocean waters below. Storms forming out in the eastern Atlantic are usually more concentrated in the August to early October time frame. However, this year hurricane forecasters have been noting record-warm ocean temperatures in the eastern Atlantic, and it seems reasonable that this could lead to an earlier tendency for storms to form in that area.
The two satellite images I included show (first) the storm as seen from the European Meteosat weather satellite, with the storm of interest the one at the left hand side of the picture. You can see on that shot that it has become reasonably well organized, and also that there is a second disturbance traveling along not too far behind it. The second image is a wide shot of the Atlantic taken from the American GOES satellite, which nicely puts the storm in perspective regarding its current distance from the United States (almost 3000 miles from the NC coast).
So far, a scan of several computer models shows the storm retaining some organization, but being quite slow to intensify, with the system moving west to west-northwest and perhaps approaching the general area near or a little south of Hispaniola toward the weekend.
Keep in mind that you can view systems like this on an interactive map of the Atlantic by clicking the "Hurricanes" link at the top of our main weather page, and that map includes the option to view the tracks of a number of forecast models. Also, you can mouse over city names on the map to produce an estimate of the distance from that city to the storm.