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A new tropical storm is likely to form in the Atlantic as hyperactive hurricane season continues

Julio Cesar Cruz
Prince Julio Cesar
Prince Julio César Cruz
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[ Saharan dust plume, the largest in decades, spills over Gulf Coast ]

That dry air comes from the Sahara Desert in what is known as the “Saharan Air Layer,” or SAL. During June and early July, a record surge of Saharan dust and dry air put a damper on cyclone activity, while transporting dust all the way to the Gulf Coast. Miami endured its hottest week on record , since the lack of cloud cover allowed sunshine to pour down and heat the ground unchecked

Just a day after Tropical Storm Hanna dumped a foot and a half of rainfall in Texas and parts of Mexico, the tropics are roaring to life once again. A wave of low pressure meandering westward, located about halfway between Cabo Verde and the Windward Islands, is likely to develop into Tropical Storm Isaias in the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

However, forecast uncertainty regarding this storm is increasing, with a range of scenarios on the table.

[ Hawaii ‘breathing a sigh of relief’ as Douglas pulls away after just grazing islands ]

The tropical North Atlantic Ocean basin has already cooked up eight tropical cyclones this year, a feat ordinarily not achieved until the end of September. The season has also yielded the earliest “C,” “E,” “F,” “G”, and “H” storms on record — Cristobal, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, and Hanna. Assuming Isaias forms, it would obliterate the previous record for the earliest “I” storm that is held by Irene, which was named on August 7, 2005.

Forecasts have called for this season to be unusually busy. A series of cooperating atmospheric circulations could help generate an increased number of storms, while anomalously warm ocean waters ― driven in part by human-induced climate change — may act to encourage those that form to become more intense.

[ The Atlantic hurricane season is off to a record fast start and is likely to get worse ]

Tracking the next tropical wave The Saharan Air Layer, visible in orange and pink, attempts to surround the western flank of Invest 92L on Monday, July 27, 2020. (CIMSS) The NHC has given the ongoing tropical wave, which is a term used to describe areas of disturbed weather in the tropics, a 90 percent chance of development during the next five days. But the incipient storm, dubbed “Invest 92L,” looked less organized when daylight dawned Monday than it did twelve hours earlier. It’s clearly fighting some inhibiting factors, but odds are it will eventually strengthen.

Among the hurtles it faces is dry air at the low and mid-levels of the atmosphere. Infrared satellite imagery showed slightly diminished shower and thunderstorm activity orbiting the tropical wave early Monday. That’s a sign that mid-level dry air is squelching thunderstorms as they attempt to tower high into the sky.

[ Saharan dust plume, the largest in decades, spills over Gulf Coast ]

That dry air comes from the Sahara Desert in what is known as the “Saharan Air Layer,” or SAL. During June and early July, a record surge of Saharan dust and dry air put a damper on cyclone activity, while transporting dust all the way to the Gulf Coast. Miami endured its hottest week on record , since the lack of cloud cover allowed sunshine to pour down and heat the ground unchecked.

Processed satellite imagery reveals the SAL swirling around in front of the tropical wave. It’s possible a tendril of that dry air may eventually become entrained in Invest 92L’s circulation and work against it.

[ Saharan dust is suppressing hurricane activity over the Atlantic. Don’t count on it staying that way. ]

In addition, Invest 92L has a broad rotation, but lacks a center of circulation around which the rest of the system is coiled. Instead, a general southwest to northeast strip of atmospheric spin, or vorticity, is present. Invest 92L’s ability to organize will be limited until that area of spin contracts, and showers and thunderstorms become more concentrated.

A satellite view of Invest 92L during the morning of Monday, July 27, 2020. (Tropical Tidbits) Meanwhile, the death of a previous cyclone could prove helpful for 92L.

Wind shear — a change in wind speed and/or direction with height — teamed up with dry air and proved fatal to Tropical Storm Gonzalo. The storm, which was once projected to become a hurricane, disintegrated before ever reaching the Windward Islands, suffering an early demise.

Despite being small, Gonzalo’s narrow core of thunderstorm activity still managed to loft quite a bit of water vapor into the upper atmosphere, which could help fend off some of the encroaching dry air from the Sahara.

#Invest92L appears to have enough rotation to eventually wrap up into a TC, but it will be a gradual process given its behemoth size. The longer it takes, the better news for NE Caribbean islands. Hard to nail down track until it consolidates. Impacts Wed/Thu for Leeward Islands. pic.twitter.com/xVT1zBByNi

— Levi Cowan (@TropicalTidbits) July 27, 2020 Another thing Invest 92L has going for it is its hulking size, which makes it resistant to the fate of a storm like Gonzalo. Then again, a larger circulation takes longer to consolidate and organize, but warm ocean waters and relatively calm upper-level winds should foster a gradual maturation, the NHC points out.

A forecast teeming with uncertainty A look at where Invest 92L is likely to become a tropical storm. (WeatherBell) Putting it all together, it appears Invest 92L will move generally west-northwestwards in the direction of the Leeward Islands during the next few days. A sharp curve out to sea is unlikely, because a sprawling “Bermuda High” that has build to the system’s north and east will act as a guardrail, restricting the system’s northward progress.

All the while, 92L should be gradually intensifying, with an upgrade to a named tropical storm likely by midweek. Thereafter, the intensity is subject to whether or not Invest 92L can manage to keep the Saharan Air Layer at bay.

Moreover, 92L’s intensity is also dependent on its track, which itself is subject to considerable uncertainty. If 92L continues sauntering to the west, it stands to bring heavy rain and strong winds wind to the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday. But if it manages to curve a bit more to the north, it might be able to take advantage of conditions more conducive to development while outrunning the effects of the SAL, allowing it to intensify late in the week.

The latter scenario would take it near or north of the northern Leeward Islands and to the north of Puerto Rico. Thereafter, it could continue northwest, in a direction that would raise concerns for the Bahamas the southeastern U.S. However, uncertainty this far out is large, with a variety of plausible scenarios in play.