So: There's good news and there's bad news on the hurricane front.
The good news is that the highly unpredictable Hurricane Flossie has not only been behaving more normally of late, but has finally been weakening. The storm has come significantly unwound, and its center now seems certain to miss Hawaii's Big Island. Flossie remains a strong Category 2 hurricane at present, and its winds and heavy rainfall will lash the island. But compared with the hypothetical possibility of a Category 4 hurricane landfall, residents have got to be breathing a sigh of relief.
Here is the latest image of Flossie's angle of approach.
And now over to the Atlantic and the bad news: It's starting to look like we could be in store for our first hurricane of the season -- and possibly an intense one.
The National Hurricane Center just named Tropical Storm Dean, which has the potential to become our first Cape Verde-type hurricane of the year. Cape Verde-type storms are so named because they form in the eastern Atlantic relatively close to the Cape Verde Islands and the coast of Africa. This gives these storms lots of time to develop over the Atlantic's warm main hurricane development region as they track steadily westward towards the Caribbean and often Central and North America. Many of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes have started out as Cape Verde-type storms.
All of that said, Dean doesn't really look like much at present; it's a mere tropical storm with 40 mile per hour winds. But the forecasters expect the storm to steadily intensify, and some of the computer models they're watching eventually predict a Category 3, 4, or even 5 hurricane. Of course, a great deal depends on Dean's particular path. Here's the current 5 day outlook.
As you can see, this projected path could take Dean across the Windward Islands and into the Caribbean. Warm ocean waters lie in wait, as the image below demonstrates (click to enlarge). Anything warmer than about 26.5 degrees Celsius is suitable to hurricane formation, but in terms of intensification, the hotter the better.
Moreover, especially in some places, the Caribbean hosts warm deep waters, which are particularly conducive to hurricane intensification. To see where the current patches lie, check out the Caribbean's tropical cyclone heat potential.
There's a great deal of uncertainty at present about the future of Tropical Storm Dean. But its possible fates include becoming our first Atlantic hurricane as well as, perhaps, our first hurricane landfall. The forecasters are watching this one very intently, and it really feels as if the main stretch of the hurricane season has begun.
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