Wave off coast of Africa expected to strengthen in the next 48 hours
A lull in the hurricane season could come to an end this weekend as a tropical wave and low pressure system off Africa swirl into a tropical depression.
On Thursday morning, National Hurricane Center forecasters gave the system an 80 percent chance of forming over the next two days as it nears the Cape Verde islands. While still far away from the U.S. coast and Florida, the system comes as the Atlantic season enters what is historically its busiest period.
In an 2 p.m. update, forecasters said the system had sustained winds of 30 mph traveling west at 12 mph. If it becomes a tropical storm, the system would be named Florence, the sixth of the season.
Closer to home, forecasters are keeping an eye on a nearby Atlantic wave moving toward the Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico ahead of the holiday weekend.
Strong wind shear is expected to keep the system from intensifying over the next several days. But as it moves into the eastern Gulf of Mexico next week, conditions could become more favorable. Still, odds remain low of a depression or tropical storm forming. At 2 p.m., forecasters put the chances at 10 percent over the next five days.
The National Weather Service’s Miami office said the system is still expected to deliver heavy rain across South Florida for the holiday weekend.
The Atlantic season typically picks up in late August as the season progresses toward its November end. Forecasters had called for an above average season, but dry air from seasonal Saharan dust and cooler Atlantic waters have helped keep it in check.
An intensifying El Niño may also help tamp down the season. This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific have been at or above normal since June, signaling a start of the weather pattern that helps build upper level winds across the Atlantic to smother hurricanes. They put the odds of an El Niño forming by fall at 60 percent.