Hurricane Map’s Gulf of Mexico X Isn’t as Bad as It Looks

A potential tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico in August could raise eyebrows and send a ripple through energy markets.

In October, it’s a different story.

Or at least, it should be.

A low-pressure system in the far western end of the Gulf has a 50 percent chance of developing into a least a tropical depression as it makes its way eastward, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

For U.S. energy producers, there isn’t much to worry about from this one, said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

“It will stay well south,” Rogers said yesterday.

The Gulf accounts for about 4.5 percent of U.S. natural gas output, 17 percent of oil production and 51 percent of refining capacity, EIA data show. Much of that production comes out of an area off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

The system marked by an orange X on the hurricane center’s website will never get there.

First off, the storm is forecast to track due east over the Yucatan Peninsula toward Cuba. Interaction with land is never good for a storm. Then, if the system were to take an unforeseen swing to the north, wind shear would prevent it from becoming too much of a threat.

Wind Shear

Shear, when winds blow at different strengths and directions at varying altitudes, is like kryptonite to tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes. A storm can be torn apart, tipped over or have its top ripped right off, all of which really saps the strength of a tropical system.

“The wind shear is so strong in the northern Gulf right now,” Rogers said.

Anything that did develop in the southern Gulf almost certainly wouldn’t survive the trip toward the energy-producing areas. It would, as meteorologists like to say, get sheared apart.

As weather patterns change with the onset of fall and winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it becomes more difficult for storms to get going in the part of the Gulf where the U.S. energy interests lie.

“Historically, it is really hard to get a significant system in the upper Gulf” in late October, Rogers said.

After a quick burst of activity last week that sent Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gonzalo over Bermuda, the Atlantic is starting to settle down.

The hurricane center is watching another potential system in the far eastern Atlantic, near the Azores, that has a 10 percent chance of developing. If that one gets going, it will most probably be a subtropical system, a sort of hybrid between tropical and regular storms.

The system is drifting west with a long way to go before the U.S. or Canada need to worry about it.

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