Tropical Storm Dorian strengthened as it moved across the Atlantic on a westward path that may take it into the Caribbean Sea, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Dorian, with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles (95 kilometers) per hour, was about 700 miles west of the Cape Verde Island and moving west-northwest at 17 mph, according to a center advisory before 5 a.m. New York time.
The center forecasts little change in Dorian’s strength for the next 48 hours, the advisory shows. The storm may gradually turn west through tomorrow, the center said.
Dorian is the fourth tropical storm of the Atlantic season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. It’s ahead of schedule: from 1966 to 2009, the fourth system typically formed by Aug. 23, according to the hurricane center.
Weather models are in good agreement that Dorian will continue to move west, Stacy Stewart, a senior specialist at the center in Miami, said yesterday. Forecast maps, which project only five days ahead, show it tracking north of Puerto Rico or over the island by July 29.
The storm may encounter wind shear, cooler ocean water and dry air, which may rob it of strength or tear at its structure.
If Dorian can hold together as it crosses the Atlantic, there’s a possibility it may bring wind and rain to the U.S. South or the Bahamas early next week, Michael Schlacter, founder and president of Weather 2000 Inc. in New York, said yesterday.
“It does have some hoops to fly through,” Schlacter said by phone. “If we get past 96 hours and it’s still some sort of system, then all of a sudden things will start to become clear to people. There’s a built-in risk of an anticlimax here because it is off of Africa. We have a long, long time to watch this.”
Atlantic systems are followed by commodities traders because they can affect oil and natural gas production as well as orange crops.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to about 6 percent of U.S. natural gas output and 23 percent of oil production and more than 40 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to the Energy Department. The Bay of Campeche, at the southern end of the Gulf, is where Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, has most of its production.