Atlantic hurricane season officially starts on June 1, but the ocean and atmosphere are paying the calendar no heed. A swirl of clouds and thunderstorms off the Florida coast has a 70 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next 48 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.
That would make it the first tropical storm of 2019, and and though it’s not likely to become a blockbuster storm or impact the U.S., Bermuda could still get a quick blast of wind and rain.
Right now, the storm is just a comma-shaped mess of thunderstorms swirling roughly 800 miles off Florida’s coast. But the National Hurricane Center said on Monday afternoon that “conditions are expected to be conducive for the formation of a subtropical or tropical cyclone later today or tonight.” The agency also said a Hurricane Hunter aircraft was en route to visit the disturbance and see how well-organized it was.
If the scientists aboard the Hurricane Hunter find winds in excess of 39 mph, the minimum wind threshold for tropical storms, the storm could become Andrea, the first named storm of the season. Assuming the storm does indeed pass the wind test, scientists will then look at other characteristics, like whether its core is warm or cold and the nature of upper levels winds, to determine whether Andrea is officially a tropical storm or a subtropical storm.
It would mark the second year in a row that the first named storm of hurricane season happened before the official June 1 start date. Last year, Subtropical Storm Alberto formed in the Gulf of Mexico in late May, ultimately making landfall in the U.S. where it bizarrely became a tropical depression—a process that usually happens over warm water, not land—after which it migrated inland to make a second “landfall” on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The current disturbance will pose no threat to the U.S., though. And a cold front is likely to scoop up the system on Tuesday, giving Andrea a very short shelf life as a named storm. But named or not, Bermuda could face some impacts. The NHC warned that “[i]nterests in Bermuda should monitor the progress of this system.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is three days away from issuing its hurricane season forecast, but it could already have one storm under its belt by the time it comes out.
Update: Well, it’s official. On Monday night, Subtropical Storm Andrea formed packing winds of 40 mph. The storm is expected to weaken on Tuesday.