Odds of next named storm increasing in Caribbean; any risk to Gulf?

National Hurricane Center gives the Caribbean wave a 50% chance of development

Odds of next named storm increasing in Caribbean; any risk to Gulf?
A 50% chance of tropical development exists in the Western Caribbean for the next 3-5 days. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Here we go again...

After going just under a week without any tropical systems or potential development zones, the National Hurricane Center has highlighted an area of concern. This one is in a typical spot for late September -- the Western Caribbean Sea.

The water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean are still very warm and above normal.
The water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean are still very warm and above normal. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

That also happens to be a region with ingredients in place that are highly supportive of tropical development, maintenance and strengthening.

Sea surface temperatures are in the 86-91 degrees range across the entirety of the Caribbean Sea. Water temperatures in that range allow tropical systems to thrive, providing ample energy for them to utilize.

Sea surface temps are also toasty in the Gulf of Mexico, where they are in the 82-88 range. While a touch below the temps found across the Caribbean, these are still plenty warm for tropical cyclones.

Oh, speaking of energy...

Plenty of heat ("energy") exists in the Caribbean Sea to support tropical development, maintenance and potential strengthening.
Plenty of heat ("energy") exists in the Caribbean Sea to support tropical development, maintenance and potential strengthening. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

A tool referred to as “Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential” (TCHP) can be used as a gauge of energy in any given body of water. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there is a strong link between high TCHP (effectively energy) values and intensification of tropical cyclones.

A look at the current TCHP values in place shows plentiful energy in place across the Caribbean and adjacent areas around Southern Florida and the Bahamas. While the TCHP values are lower in the Gulf of Mexico, they aren’t zero.

Wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico, alongside the direction of the flow may prohibit a significant system from impacting much of the Gulf.
Wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico, alongside the direction of the flow may prohibit a significant system from impacting much of the Gulf. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Another box that can be checked off the Tropical Cyclone Ingredients List is a lack of wind shear. Wind shear makes it tough for tropical systems to develop and maintain themselves. It isn’t a complete dictator of tropical cyclone formation, but high wind shear values discourage development.

In the Caribbean, we’ve got pretty much no wind shear in place for the next week.

The result? Another item in support of tropical development later this week in the Western Caribbean. Once you get into the Gulf, however, wind shear and the flow of winds aloft may not be ideal for any tropical system attempting to move in from the south.

Even so, several longer range forecast models do hint at whatever develops in the Western Caribbean heading into the Gulf of Mexico. While nothing is set in stone this far ahead of time, it’s something worth watching.

The GFS shows a surface low in the Western Caribbean by Friday, suggesting a potential tropical system.
The GFS shows a surface low in the Western Caribbean by Friday, suggesting a potential tropical system. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

To put the idea out there of where this potential system may develop, we’ll show you two different models and where they think the center of low pressure will be by Friday evening.

Above is the GFS (American) model’s idea on where a potential tropical depression or storm may be. It isn’t overly strong, but there is a closed circulation just east of Belize.

The EURO model shows a surface low in the Western Caribbean by Friday, suggesting a potential tropical system.
The EURO model shows a surface low in the Western Caribbean by Friday, suggesting a potential tropical system. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The second model shown is the ECMWF (European) model. It also depicts an area of low pressure in the Western Caribbean, but has its center of circulation in the open waters between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Again, it’s not overly strong, but the signal is there for a tropical system in the Western Caribbean by late this week.

So don’t be surprised to see the chance of development in this area rise from its current 50% status in the coming days.

The only area of concern in the Atlantic Basin is in the Western Caribbean.
The only area of concern in the Atlantic Basin is in the Western Caribbean. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Should we see a tropical cyclone develop, knowing where it goes and how strong it will be beyond the Caribbean is nearly impossible at this point. What we can say is that if a storm does form, the potential for a path into the Gulf does exist.

Would we worry or be concerned along the Gulf Coast? Certainly not at this juncture.

Would we closely watch the forecast and updates to come from the National Hurricane Center? That’s a solid yes.

We will stay on top of this potential system and any others that may attempt to develop, and pass along that information as we get it!

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