With just under three weeks to go in the official Atlantic hurricane season, which ends on Nov. 30, vast areas of dry air and disruptive winds have shut down tropical activity over much of the basin. However, AccuWeather meteorologists say one zone could be the breeding grounds for tropical development toward mid-November: the western and central Caribbean.
Waters over much of the Caribbean remain quite warm, with surf temperatures well into the 80s F. The minimum threshold for tropical development is about 80 degrees.
"Not only is the surface water warm, 80-degree water temperatures extend to over 150 feet below the surface," AccuWeather Tropical Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said. This can fuel a budding tropical system because cool water does not become churned up to the surface as wave action begins.
Another factor forecasters monitor for tropical development is wind shear. Wind shear is the change of wind speed or direction with height, or across a horizontal area, and when it's strong, it can disrupt tropical development or cause established tropical systems to weaken.
"Wind shear is very high across the Caribbean late this week, but there are some signs that wind shear may ease in the region toward the middle of the month," DaSilva said.
As of Thursday, there was not a great deal of moisture evident over the Caribbean. However, data suggests that showers and thunderstorms will gather over the western and central Caribbean through the week.
Sometime this week, there is a chance that an area of low pressure will develop over the western and central Caribbean and may help to focus the thunderstorms. Should this area develop a strong enough circulation, a tropical depression or storm may be born from the middle to the latter part of the new week.
AccuWeather meteorologists have designated a low risk of tropical development in the western and central Caribbean from Tuesday to Thursday.
"It is possible that development could be delayed this week as well," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. If there is any delay in tropical development, then the system could miss an opportunity to move northward out of the Caribbean.
Pastelok further explained that there is a wide range of possibilities of where any storm that forms could head, should a system form at all. A weak system could wander westward into Central America, or if a feature takes time to become organized, then stronger wind shear could return and rip it up and end the threat.
This image of the southwestern Atlantic basin shows the Caribbean in the center. Thunderstorms near Central America (left of center) were not showing signs of organization on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2023. (AccuWeather Enhance RealVue™ Satellite)
"Should the system form, organize and strengthen in the Caribbean this week, there is an avenue for it to take a curved path over the southwestern Atlantic," AccuWeather Tropical Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said. A stronger system tends to reach higher into the atmosphere and could be more influenced by westerly steering winds.
North of the Caribbean from the middle of the month through the third week or so, westerly winds in the middle part of the atmosphere are likely to remain strong enough to steer a tropical storm or hurricane toward the northeast and likely away from Florida and the southeastern United States, DaSilva explained.
"The chance of a direct impact on the U.S. by a system in the Caribbean is very low at this time," DaSilva said.
Another weather feature could play a role in the system's strength and perhaps cause some indirect impacts along the shores of the U.S. The circulation around an area of high pressure, projected to be near the East Coast late this week, could help any storm moving north from the Caribbean to strengthen. It could do so by adding extra spin.
If the track brings the system near Hispaniola then over the Bahamas, winds could be funneled between that feature and the high-pressure area. That could potentially lead to rough surf and above-normal tides from eastern Florida to the Carolinas.
AccuWeather meteorologists will continue closely monitoring the potential for tropical development in the Caribbean through the end of the month.
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