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Tropical Tracker: What lies ahead for Gonzalo, Tropical Depression Eight? Bad news for the Atlantic?

More development off of Africa possible to close out July

Tropics are heating up after a quiet stretch.
Tropics are heating up after a quiet stretch.

ORLANDO, Fla. – We've done it again this 2020 hurricane season and we will likely break another record before this week is over. Another named storm, another fastest to its respective letter. More on that later.

We highlighted the potential for one of these waves off of Africa to develop once it got out into the Atlantic in last week’s tropical tracker. That wave is now Gonzalo.

What is to become of Gonzalo and Tropical Depression Eight?

The window for Gonzalo to intensify is closing. Once it makes its way into the Caribbean, conditions become less favorable.
The window for Gonzalo to intensify is closing. Once it makes its way into the Caribbean, conditions become less favorable.

Gonzalo was forecast to become the first hurricane of the season, but as of Thursday morning, it was in a dog fight against really dry air. Once it reaches the Eastern Caribbean, the environment becomes less favorable (green color). It (hopefully) may never reach hurricane status.

Red indicates where conditions are favorable. Green and yellow represent less favorable conditions for tropical development
Red indicates where conditions are favorable. Green and yellow represent less favorable conditions for tropical development

If Gonzalo were to fend off the hostile conditions, it would have a shot to regroup as conditions become more favorable (red) deeper in the Caribbean. We definitely want this thing to fall apart quick.

In a 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, forecasters were referring to Gonzalo as a “tiny” tropical storm but did not completely rule out the possibility of the system eventually reaching hurricane status.

“Some strengthening is forecast during the next day or two, and there is still a chance that Gonzalo could become a hurricane,” forecasters wrote in the advisory.

As of Thursday evening, Gonzalo was located about 810 miles east of the southern Windward Islands and had maximum sustained winds near 60 mph with higher gusts, the Hurricane Center said. The system was moving west at 13 mph.

“Some computer models bring it to South America while some try to bring it north over Cuba,” Bridges said. “Again, if it moves over a large landmass, it will likely die out. We will continue to watch.”

The NHC said once Gonzalo moves into the Caribbean Sea, the system is expected to weaken.

TD Eight will likely become Hanna before making landfall in Texas this weekend. Regardless if Eight gets a name, flooding will be the main threat in Texas. Thankfully, there’s just not enough room for TD Eight to really get its act together further, but the storm doesn’t have to be strong to cause major flooding.

Tropical Depression Eight could become Tropical Storm Hanna by the weekend bringing the potential for flooding to Texas.
Tropical Depression Eight could become Tropical Storm Hanna by the weekend bringing the potential for flooding to Texas.

Another record

Gonzalo becomes the earliest seventh named storm of the season, forming two days before Gert, the previous record holder in 2005. This is only the second time on record that the "G" storm has developed in July.

If Tropical Depression Eight does indeed strengthen into Tropical Storm Hanna, it would be the earliest eighth storm on record. Harvey, also in 2005, currently holds that record developing on Aug. 3.

This would be the first time an “H” storm would develop in the month of July.

In terms of ACE, Accumulated Cyclone Energy, we are nowhere near 2005, the year we keep one-upping this hurricane season. To this point in 2005, we already had an ACE of 56.2. Compare that to an ACE of 8.0 to date. The average ACE through the July 22 is 6.6. Regardless, we shouldn’t have seven named storms prior to August. On average, the 7th named storm of the season doesn’t develop until Sept. 16.

Tracks and intensity of the 2005 hurricane season. 2020 has broken several records when it comes to how many storms have formed, but 2005 already had two major hurricanes to date.
Tracks and intensity of the 2005 hurricane season. 2020 has broken several records when it comes to how many storms have formed, but 2005 already had two major hurricanes to date.

Just because the current ACE is much lower than 2005, doesn’t mean what’s been going on isn’t significant, however.

While the storms to date have been weak and short-lived, generating low ACE, in a "normal" year we wouldn't even be talking about these storms having the chance to develop. It goes to show just how primed our atmosphere really is for development even when climatology is against it. When climatology really starts to favor development, now through October, things could get rough.

Bad news for the Atlantic going forward?

Out of all of the storms to develop thus far, Gonzalo is no doubt the most significant. This isn’t because it will likely be the strongest so far, but more because of the area it developed in. This is one of those Cabo Verde storms. Sure, storms can and have developed in this part of the world in July before, but they become more common in August and September.

Tropical development in the Central Atlantic, around where Gonzalo developed, prior to Aug. 1 is often a precursor to an active season. We have been talking since the season began that the number of storms rolling off of Africa has been high for so early in the season. The Atlantic hadn’t been conducive to development and most fizzled out, but with the birth of Gonzalo, the Atlantic is proving it can now feed these storms to some degree.

Gonazalo encountering the Saharan dust in the Central Atlantic.
Gonazalo encountering the Saharan dust in the Central Atlantic.

There is, however, still a lot of dust out there. Gonzalo developed south of where the dust is located, but as mentioned above, is starting to encounter it. Gonzalo is also really far south of where tropical systems tend to develop. The huge Bermuda high is forcing those storms closer to South America.

Through the end of July

There are indications that before July ends one, maybe two more robust waves will emerge into the Atlantic. The MJO is in its enhanced phase for eastern Atlantic, which will promote thunderstorm development off of Africa. It becomes even more enhanced over the next couple of weeks.

We’ve entered the “mean” season, as Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells refers to it.


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