Less than two months into hurricane season, and already we are up to the seventh named storm of what is forecast to be an above-normal season.
On Wednesday Tropical Storm Gonzalo formed in the Atlantic between Africa and the Lesser Antilles east of the Windward Islands.
Early indications are that on its current projection the storm or its effects could be in the vicinity of the Cayman Islands by about the middle of next week.
However, The Weather Channel is reporting that Gonzalo's tiny size and the environment around it pose major forecast challenges for its future intensity.
Although it is forecast to strengthen in the next few days east of the Windward Islands, the Weather Channel says dry air currently to the west and north of Gonzalo, is one factor that can weaken and disrupt tropical cyclones.
It also said that “while shearing winds are currently not near this system, it may encounter increased wind shear as it nears the Windward Islands this weekend.”
These factors cause a weakening of Gonzalo by the time it nears the Windward Islands Saturday, the Weather Channel projected.
On Wednesday the system then located over 1,000 miles east of the southern Windward Islands, was moving west-northwest and was expected to maintain that path initially.
Gonzalo is the earliest seventh named tropical storm on record to form in the Atlantic basin, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a tropical scientist at Colorado State University. The previous record was held by Tropical Storm Gert, which developed on July 24, 2005.
In its recent 2020 Hurricane season update, the Cayman Islands National Weather Service had advised of above-average activity expected for this year.
Quoting hurricane researchers at Colorado State University, it attributed the outlook to tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures being are currently warmer than their long-term average values.
“The tropical Atlantic is somewhat warmer than normal right now, the CINWS said, adding that “warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic provide more fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification.
“They are also associated with a more unstable atmosphere as well as moister air, both of which favour organized thunderstorm activity that is necessary for hurricane development.”
Tropical Storm Gonzalo and the other six storms already named since the 2020 Hurricane Season started at the beginning of June marks some of the earliest activity in the past fifty years.
None of the storms reached hurricane intensity, but weather experts say the sheer number of them fit with forecasts of a busy season.
An update on Wednesday from the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) explained that although Gonzalo is likely to remain in an environment of fairly low shear, the influences of dry air and large-scale subsidence could inhibit strengthening in a few days.
The NHC said its intensity forecast is similar to the previous one, and calls for some strengthening during the next couple of days followed by a levelling off thereafter.
“This is below the model consensus, but above the global model predictions which eventually dissipate the cyclone,” it said.
However, the NHC also advised that the small size of this system makes it susceptible to significant fluctuations in intensity, both upward and downward.”