Talk about feast or famine—it’s like the tropics looked at the calendar and decided that they needed to shift into high gear. Not only are we tracking Hurricane Danny as it makes its way toward the Caribbean this weekend, but there are three more systems—two in the Atlantic and one in the central Pacific—that could try to develop into tropical cyclones as we head through next week.
It’s the little hurricane that could. Danny formed in the face of atmospheric adversity, fighting off an environment full of dry, dusty air from the Sahara in order to become the year’s first hurricane in the Atlantic basin. Danny’s a cute li’l storm, and extremely tiny compared to most tropical cyclones. As of 5:00 PM, hurricane force winds (75 MPH) only extend ten (!!!) miles from the storm’s eye, and tropical storm force winds (39-74 MPH) only extend 60 miles from the center of circulation.
That’s small. Very small.
So small, in fact, that if you were to plop Hurricane Danny on top of Washington D.C. right now, its hurricane force wind field would barely cover the city and just about nothing else. If you were wondering, the smallest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin was Tropical Storm Marco back in 2008. The storm, which formed in the Bay of Campeche (extreme southern Gulf of Mexico), only had tropical storm force winds extend 10 miles from its center. There have been stronger thunderstorms in Alaska, but there it was, spinning in the Gulf with a name and everything.
Storms this small have a nasty habit of doing unexpected things, so it could rapidly intensify or collapse into the void with little notice. The models, limited in their spatial resolution to begin with, can have a hard time resolving storms that are this small. The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast shows Danny maintaining its current hurricane status through early next week, just as it starts to interact with the Lesser Antilles. Once it reaches the Caribbean islands, it will start to feel the effects of dry air and start to weaken.
Unfortunately (or fortunately!), Danny is so small—and likely to stay small—that even if it crashes head-on into islands like Puerto Rico as currently forecast to do, it probably won’t be as prolific a rainmaker as locals would have hoped. That seems counter-intuitive—you usually root for the hurricane to go away—but this region is mired in a deep drought that’s taking an extensive toll on freshwater sources. The water shortage is so bad that 160,000 homes and businesses in Puerto Rico are facing two-day water outages—officials shut off the water for two days, turn it back on for one day, and the process repeats.
The storm is thousands of miles from the mainland United States, and it would take another two weeks for it to get here if it even survives and doesn’t shift out to sea, so ignore anyone mentioning the storm hitting the lower 48 at this point. There is no accuracy at such a long range. That being said, it is hurricane season, and you should always be prepared for storms if you live in a vulnerable area.
Areas of Interest
The National Hurricane Center also points out two areas in the Atlantic that have the potential for tropical development over the next five days.
The most interesting area is located near Bermuda, and the agency gives this area a 60% chance of becoming a tropical (or subtropical) cyclone by early next week. Weather models show an extratropical low (your common, everyday low influenced by the jet stream) developing over the western Atlantic in the next few days, and they show this low developing tropical characteristics as it moves near Bermuda. It’ll be very interesting to watch, and anyone along the U.S. East Coast should keep an eye on the system due to its proximity to land.
Our other system is a complex of thunderstorms coming off the western coast of Africa, a typical event for this time of the year. Systems coming off of Africa are always of concern in August, since tropical cyclones like to form in this region of the world around this time of the year. We have a while to worry about what this system will do.
At 11:00 AM HST, or 5:00 PM EST, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center will begin issuing advisories on a newly-minted tropical depression that’s located about 900 miles southeast of Honolulu. We’ll know more once they issue the advisory, but the system will generally move toward the northwest, bringing it close to the island chain by next week. However, models have diverging solutions on what will happen when the system gets closer to our fiftieth state. At least one computer model shows the system affecting Hawaii—and it’s not something that would be torn apart by volcanoes on the Big Island like the umpteen other tropical cyclones that have threatened the state in recent months—so residents and visitors to paradise need to monitor what this newly-minted storm decides to do.
[Maps: author | Satellite: NOAA | Updated at 4:45 PM EDT to reflect the newest advisory on Hurricane Danny from the NHC.]