An area of thunderstorms and low pressure faces buffeting winds and dry air as it drifts northwest through the Caribbean Sea toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The storms, designated Invest 97, have a 30 percent chance of becoming tropical system in the next five days, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“I’m more doubtful about the prospects today due to high wind shear, dry air, and then an approaching cold front this weekend -- more shear again,” said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.
Tropical systems in the Gulf can affect oil and natural gas operations in both Mexico and the U.S. The waters are home to 23 percent of U.S. crude production, 5.6 percent of gas output and more than 45 percent of petroleum refining capacity, according to the Energy Department.
The Bay of Campeche, in the southwest part of the Gulf, is where Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company known as Pemex, has its two largest oil fields, which produce about 1.25 million barrels a day.
Shear is when winds at various altitudes blow in different directions or speeds. By doing so, the currents can tear at the structure of a storm, weakening or destroying it. In addition, dry air can also disrupt a tropical system from developing.
Farther to the east in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Jerry formed with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour. It was 1,325 miles west-southwest of the Azores, moving east at 7 mph.
“We don’t think Jerry is going to be much of a threat to anyone,” said Frank Strait, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
Strait said there is a chance a weather front moving off North America will pick Jerry up, possibly breaking it up. If that doesn’t happen, then the storm may just drift in the central Atlantic for days without becoming a threat to land.