A weather system off West Africa may signal the start of the most active part of the annual hurricane season in the Atlantic, with meteorologists expecting a wave of storms to develop within days.
“Next week looks to be an active one with possibly two storms, one of which could represent a threat to the East Coast,” said Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. The National Hurricane Center is also watching an area of thunderstorms near Florida.
Colorado State University’s William Gray, who pioneered hurricane forecasting, likes to ring a bell on Aug. 20 to mark the start of the season that lasts through the end of November.
The Atlantic is usually its warmest in late August, with less wind shear that can tear storms apart, said Paul Walker, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. The jet stream also moves farther north, he said.
Meterologists, now watching three Atlantic weather systems, monitor their progress due to risks to the Gulf of Mexico, home to 31 percent of U.S. oil output and 7 percent of natural gas. Storms tend to form in the “main development region” from the Cape Verde Islands off Africa to the Caribbean Leeward Islands, where some of the most powerful storms on record have begun.
The hurricane center is watching a system about 650 miles (1,000 kilometers) west of the southern tip of the islands with a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm or depression in two days, it said on its website at 8 a.m. in New York. “The Cape Verde hurricane season looks to start,” Rouiller said.
While the disturbance off Cape Verde will contend with “loads of dry air” that may stop it developing as it moves across the Atlantic, the system is strong and will be followed by another coming from Africa in the next few days, Walker said.
Another area of disturbed weather about 300 miles south-southeast of the southern Cape Verde has a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in two days, the hurricane center said. A third area of “disorganized showers and thunderstorms” located over the Atlantic about midway between Florida and Bermuda has a 10 percent chance, the center said.
“It’s not a big one, but something we have to watch,” Walker said of the Florida system.