Tropical Tracker: Another storm off of the list, heart of the Atlantic remains quiet

Saharan Dust still dominates main development region

Fay developed Thursday afternoon becoming the earliest 6th named storm on record.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Last weekend we saw Edouard develop close to Bermuda and then quickly dissipate. While weak, it made history as the earliest fifth named storm of the season. Thursday afternoon, Tropical Storm Fay developed off of the Carolina Coast becoming the earliest 6th storm on record.

Floridians remember Fay for dumping upwards of 30″ of rain to parts of Central Florida in 2008. Since Fay was not retired it remains in the 6-year rotation for storm names. If Fay develops it would become the earliest 6th named storm on record.

More on the historical significance below.

Heart of the Atlantic quiet

We have crossed 5 names off of the 2020 list as of Thursday morning. Four out of five of the storms have been non-tropical in origin, meaning they developed from dying cold fronts or upper-level lows moving off of the U.S. and have gone on to develop over the warm water.

Cristobal was the only storm to date to form within the tropics, but even that had a non-tropical look by the time it made landfall in Louisiana.

The Saharan dust has been long gone from Florida, but still rules the roost in the Main Development Region(MDR) of the tropical Atlantic.

This is the heart of the Atlantic when it comes to the tropics.

The MDR extends from the African continent into the Caribbean and becomes the area to watch when we get to those peak months of August, September and October. There have been abnormally high activity when it comes to storms rolling off of Africa, but the atmosphere hasn’t been conducive for development due to the dust from Africa.

This increased activity off of Africa is one of the main reasons for the above forecasts for the year.

Edouard makes history

As mentioned above, Edouard became the earliest 5th named storm on record last weekend, developing about a week before the previous record holder, Emily in 2005. On average the 5th storm of the season doesn’t develop until August 31.

We typically don’t see the F storm until September 8.

It is important to note that all of the storms that have developed this season to date have been weak and short-lived. While we have set multiple records for earliest named storms in this 2020 season, the season is nowhere near breaking records record for Accumulated Cyclone Energy or ACE. We’ve talked about ACE before, it’s the measure of energy generated from the storm. Longevity and intensity are the main factors when it comes to ACE.

The first five storms in 2020 have generated an ACE of 6.7. The average ACE to date is 2.7, so we are well above where we should be in that department as well. Comparing where we stand to 2005 in terms of ACE, we aren’t even close, however.

2005 hurricane season through 5th named storm. By the "E" storm there had already been 3 hurricanes. In 2020 all of the storms have been weak, short-lived tropical storms.

Through the 5th storm in 2005, (ending July 21) the generated ACE was a whopping 56.2. That ACE was largely driven by Hurricanes Dennis and Emily. Dennis reached category 4 status while Emily became the only July Cat. 5 on record. 4 out of the 5 storms developed in the Caribbean, the place to be for abundant fuel in the early stages of hurricane season. Three of the first five storms in 2005 were hurricanes. We have yet to have a hurricane in 2020. (Let’s keep it that way).

2020, however, does have much more heat energy available when compared to 2005 so if something were to develop, it would have the potential to grow up.

The warmer the color, the more heat energy is available for potential tropical systems to use. (Source: NOAA/AOML)
(July 7, 2005) Potential heat energy for tropical systems. The warmer the color the more fuel is available for use. 2020 through July 7 has more available heat energy than 2005. (Source: NOAA/AOML)

June and July are typically very quiet months so the fact that we are generating even weak, short-lived storms shows that the atmosphere is primed for development going into peak season.

Colorado State University increases forecast

Tuesday, Colorado State University released its July forecast update for the hurricane season. CSU puts together one of the most respected hurricane season forecasts out there. Their preseason forecast called for an above-average season with:

  • 16 storms
  • 8 total hurricanes
  • 4 major hurricanes (Cat 3+)

Tuesday’s update increased those numbers to:

  • 20 storms
  • 9 hurricanes
  • 4 major

Looking ahead

The current pattern will be conducive for more waves emerging off of Africa. The dust in the MDR should keep things at bay through the middle of July, however.

Saharan dust (brown, white) continues to dominate the Atlantic's Main Development Region.

If one of these waves sneaks underneath the dust cloud, it would bear watching.


Tropical Trivia: Put your answer in the comment section below. The answer will be posted in the comments Friday morning.

Answer in the comment section below

About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.