PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – After what feels like an unusually quiet May (after all, it’s been since 2014 that we’ve gone this late in the year without a named Atlantic storm), the tropics are starting to move.
On the eastern Pacific side, Hurricane Agatha made landfall in Mexico on Monday as a Category 2 storm, the strongest May storm to impact Mexico’s Pacific coast since record-keeping began in 1949. It has since it has weakened to a tropical depression over southwestern Mexico, but continues to produce torrential rains and flash flooding.
Our computer models are in good agreement with peeling off some of Agatha’s remnants this week as it tracks inland over Mexico and merging it with a broader storm area over the Gulf of Mexico or western Caribbean by Wednesday-Friday night. .
As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is giving this area a 60% chance of becoming our first Atlantic tropical depression or named storm by the end of the year. week.
The area outlined by the NHC is over a favored part of the Atlantic for storm formation in early June. Agatha is not expected to maintain its status as a tropical depression over the terrain of Mexico, so if a tropical storm forms from its remnants in the Gulf this week, it would be dubbed Alex, the first named storm of the hurricane season. in the Atlantic of 2022.
Throughout May the Atlantic has been largely under dry air. This is part of a larger disturbance in the upper atmosphere called the Madden-Julian oscillation.
May isn’t exactly a favored time of year for tropical formation, but it’s not especially so under the influence of sinking air, which dries up the lower atmosphere. The yin to the yang of this sinking air leg of the Madden-Julian wobble is the rising air leg, which has recently made its way into the eastern Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. This change in upper air wind configuration has caused the flipping pattern we are currently seeing.
As the Madden Julian wobble moves east into the Atlantic this week, it will help reduce some of the typically hostile early June wind shear across the Gulf of Mexico, which will serve to promote storm organization. The Gulf is also noticeably warmer than average for late May; in fact, with the exception of 2015, over the past week, it has been warmer than any similar period since 1981. Thus, the Gulf “feels” more like mid-June than late May, which should provide a little power up for brewing disturbance.
That said, a dip in the jet stream over the western Gulf this week should keep our system in check, and typical of early June, our models keep it a sloppy, ragged system as it moves south from Florida this weekend. It is worth mentioning that none of our current guidance suggests the development of a strong storm. The result for South Florida will be an increase in tropical humidity with the potential for heavy rain and flooding, especially after recent rain over the weekend. Heavy rain timing will be Friday through Saturday for the WPLG viewing area.
A concern for Southwest Florida may be the possibility of some minor to moderate storm surge and coastal flooding, depending on the strength of the system. Models indicate the possibility of a hybrid (or subtropical) system, which, due to increased wind spread, would also increase the coastal flooding threat to Southwest Florida, even if the system remains weaker. This is something we will want to see for our friends on the Gulf side as we go through the week.
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