Brewing tropical system to take aim at Caribbean

·5 min read

The tropical Atlantic is beginning to heat up following a lull in activity in the wake of Tropical Storm Alex. A robust cluster of showers and thunderstorms dubbed a tropical rainstorm by AccuWeather meteorologists may become the next named tropical system of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season as it traverses the far southern reaches of the basin during the final days of June.

The feature of interest, which forecasters have been tracking for days, faced an uphill climb last week with pockets of dry, dusty air and wind shear along its path. Having survived that journey, the rainstorm is now entering an environment more suitable for a tropical system to organize, with lighter winds and very warm water.

"We expect the system to cross the southern Windward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday evening into Tuesday night, possibly as a tropical storm, with maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph (63-117 km/h)," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.

As of early Tuesday morning, the tropical rain storm was located about 670 miles east of Trinidad and has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. It was moving west-northwest at 18 mph. A tropical storm warning was issued for Trinidad, Tobago and Grenada. Starting Tuesday night into Wednesday, 4-6 inches of rain are expected for the trio of nations, as well as northeastern Venezuela.

While the system's sustained wind speeds have met tropical storm criteria, hurricane hunters were unable to find enough circulation to officially declare it a tropical depression or storm. The National Hurricane Center is referring to the system as Potential Tropical Cyclone Two, with a 70 percent chance to form as a tropical storm by Wednesday evening.

The next system to reach tropical-storm strength in the Atlantic will acquire the name Bonnie, and the third-named storm will eventually be known as Colin.

Regardless of whether the system fully organizes into a named storm by the time it reaches the islands, forecasters expect an uptick in tropical downpours, rough surf and wind prior to the middle of the week.

This satellite image from Monday, June 27, 2022, shows several clusters of showers and thunderstorms across the tropical Atlantic. (CIRA/RAMMB)

"Rain across the southern Windward Islands and the northern coast of South America will largely be 2-4 inches (50-100 mm) which may lead to isolated flooding problems, but generally minor impacts," Douty said.

Moderate wind gusts of 40-60 mph (60-100 km/h) are expected to accompany the tropical downpours. Small craft operators are advised to use caution as seas will become rough, forecasters say.

AccuWeather has rated this system a less than one on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes for the southern Caribbean islands and northern South America.

Forecasters point to two factors that may have an influence on how strong this system could become and how quickly it could organize -- its location and forward speed. The rainstorm is forecast to zip along to the west at a speed of 15-20 mph over the coming days.

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"The intensity of the storm will greatly depend on impacts from South America as the storm skirts along the northern coast of the continent," Douty said. Friction from the large landmass could tear apart a poorly organized system or prevent it from gaining much wind strength.

AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski commented on how unusual it is to see tropical development this far south, especially this early in the year.

"It's more likely to occur in September or even early October," Kottlowski said.

Since record keeping of Atlantic tropical systems began in the mid-1800s, only 25 storms have passed within 50 nautical miles of Aruba, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Of those 25 storms, only one brushed by the country during the month of June -- an unnamed hurricane on June 29, 1933.

Beyond the Caribbean, forecasters expect the system to reach Central America by Friday or Saturday, barring any significant disruptions to its circulation during its close encounter with the northern part of South America.

"Depending on the final intensity of the storm, there could be more significant impacts to eastern Central America," Douty said. There may be a small window for the tropical system to quickly ramp up in wind intensity across the southern Caribbean Sea prior to reaching land.

Forecasters say an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 26 inches (660 mm) of rain will be possible in the mountainous terrain of Central America if the storm holds together, with a widespread swath expected to receive more than half a foot (150 mm).

"Such rain will cause widespread mudslides, flash flooding and road washouts across parts of Honduras and Nicaragua," Pydynowski said.

Wind damage could also be more widespread in these areas, depending on the exact intensity of the tropical system by this point in its life cycle.

In the wake of this tropical system, AccuWeather's team of tropical experts continues to monitor tropical waves that have emerged off the coast of Africa.

One such wave may have a small chance to develop into a tropical system during the latter part of this week and into the early part of the weekend. Regardless, an uptick in tropical downpours is likely across the northern Caribbean during this time frame.

Another area that forecasters were tracking Monday was a disturbance near the central and southern Bahamas. Steering breezes will guide thunderstorms toward South Florida from later Tuesday to Wednesday with an increased risk of localized torrential downpours and potentially hazardous conditions for small craft.

Finally, a similar disturbance will travel toward the west-southwest and will bring an uptick in drenching showers and thunderstorms to the Texas coast toward the middle and latter part of this week.

AccuWeather's team of tropical weather meteorologists expects an above-average season and above-average direct impacts on the United States for 2022. The team remains concerned that there could be one or more significant impacts on Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the southeastern U.S. mainland this season.

Even though the Atlantic tends to remain relatively quiet during July and early August, the number of tropical storms and hurricanes tends to increase quickly later in August and during the middle of September. Hurricane season does not officially end until Nov. 30.

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