Despite being surrounded by an impressive plume of Saharan air or SAL, the vigorous tropical wave and associated low pressure area, also known as 96L, continues to get better organized.
Latest satellite images show more deep convection developing along with classic banding “arms” indicating that the low pressure area continues to strengthen over the warm tropical waters of the east Atlantic.
I was not convinced as of yesterday that 96L would amount to much but this morning, my tune is changing somewhat. It seems as though conditions are not quite as hostile as I thought and it looks as though the system has a chance of becoming a tropical storm before too long.
If we look at sea surface temperatures and more importantly, upper ocean heat content, we see that 96L is moving over fairly warm water with decent heat content. In other words, the warm water is not just at the surface, it extends down in the ocean for several dozen meters if not more. This allows sufficient moisture to be drawn in to the developing low as it stirs up the ocean’s surface, essentially bringing up more warm water. In addition, the farther west it travels, the warmer the water becomes.
Wind shear is not an issue either right now as it looks like a well-established bubble of high pressure in the upper atmosphere is allowing deep thunderstorms to develop and rise vertically, not being blown off in one direction by shearing winds. If this pattern holds, it will only aid in the development of 96L in to a tropical depression and eventually a tropical storm.
Let’s say it does go on to develop in to a named storm. If so, it will be “Danny”. The computer models generally agree that it will move west-northwest with time towards the northeast Caribbean Sea. In a way, this could spell great news for the region which has seen little in the way of rain over the past few months. As long as the would-be storm doesn’t get too strong, it could be a huge benefit rain-wise for parts of the Caribbean. It is still way too soon to know for sure about the future track but it looks as though a general west to west-northwest path will continue for the next few days.
As far as intensity goes, this is tricky. Warm water temps and light winds aloft should allow 96L to become our next tropical storm. However, this is where I am skeptical; knowing how hostile conditions have been in the deep tropics for some time now. On the other hand, I also know the limitations of intensity forecasting and realize that anything can happen within reason. It is not completely out of the question that this system becomes a hurricane at some point. It’s also probably fair to say it has just as good a chance of being a weak tropical storm at best. We are simply going to have to wait it out and see what happens.
Fortunately, what ever becomes of 96L will be within range of reconnaissance aircraft in a few days. It won’t be long before we see the NHC task recon to fly out and investigate the system as it closes in on the Caribbean later in the week. Until then, we’ll rely on satellite and possible ship data to determine what the strength of 96L is.
I will have an in-depth discussion on my video blog to be posted this afternoon. It will be accessible via our YouTube channel and in our app, Hurricane Impact for iOS and Android devices. I’ll also post a link to it on our Facebook and Twitter.
M. Sudduth 6:45 AM ET August 18