A system in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has a high chance of developing into a tropical cyclone over the next few days as it moves west towards the Caribbean. If it develops into a tropical storm, its name will be Bertha.
The National Hurricane Center gives the disturbance a 70% chance of developing into a depression or storm, saying that it will only take a little more organization to acquire enough tropical characteristics to be classified as a depression. It's already pretty impressive looking on satellite imagery, with spiral banding in the clouds and thunderstorm activity forming around a clearly-visible low pressure center.
The system is pretty small — about half the size of Louisiana by the looks of it — and the atmosphere is conducive to its development through midweek. After that, however, the NHC says that increasing wind shear will make the environment hostile to the system's further strengthening, likely forcing it to dissipate over or near the eastern Caribbean.
Even though it's July 21 and we've only had one storm, hurricane season is progressing just about as one should expect for this time of year. The National Hurricane Center's averages between 1966 and 2009 show that the season's second storm normally doesn't form until August 1. The climatological peak of hurricane season is September 10.
According to forecasts released back in May, tropical weather experts generally expect this year's Atlantic hurricane season to perform at or just below normal.
[Images via GOES and NHC]
UPDATE 4:41 PM EDT: The system is now Tropical Depression Two and it is expected to fall apart before entering the Caribbean Sea on Thursday.