Danielle strengthens in the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2022 season



Tropical Storm Danielle reached hurricane strength late Friday morning over the open Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm, which is not expected to threaten any land areas, is the first hurricane in what has been a calm Atlantic season so far.

Danielle is also the last hurricane to form in the Atlantic since 2013, said Phil Klotzbach, a tropical meteorology researcher at Colorado State University.

Another oddity in a strange Atlantic season: The storm grew unusually large in the north – nearly 40 degrees latitude – where hurricanes are rare. But it was the record-breaking ocean waters that fueled the storm.

Michael Lowry, hurricane specialist for Miami TV affiliate WPLG, tweeted that the sea surface temperature near Danielle exceeded 80 degrees for the first time on record. Tropical storms and hurricanes require such warm water to intensify.

Much of the northwest Atlantic is significantly warmer than normal, reflecting the effects of human-induced climate change that has raised ocean temperatures around the world.

The The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a moderate to strong sea heat wave in progress in the area where Danielle developed. Marine heat waves occur when ocean temperatures are abnormally high for a long period of time and are associated with significant effects on marine ecosystems.

Danielle is among the furthest north and east hurricanes to form in the Atlantic, in part due to this heat wave.

At 11:00 a.m. Eastern, Danielle was centered 885 miles west of the Azores, almost at a standstill. “The hurricane is expected to meander over the open Atlantic over the next two days, then slowly turn northeastward early next week,” the Hurricane Center wrote.

The center predicts the storm will strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane by Sunday before weakening to a Category 1 by the middle of next week.

The 2022 hurricane season surprised forecasters for being abnormally quiet despite initial predictions of a busy season. The Atlantic remained without a named storm for nearly two months, from early July to late August. August passed without a named storm for the first time since 1997.

Did predictions of a very busy hurricane season turn out to be totally wrong?

While warm ocean waters favored storm formation, a combination of dry, stable air and hostile winds generally suppressed development.

But since early September, the Atlantic has shown signs of waking up. In addition to Danielle, the Hurricane Center is monitoring a disturbance east of the Lesser Antilles and gives it a 70% chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm within the next five days.

This system is worth watching: most forecast models suggest the disturbance will roll out to sea in several days, but a few suggest it could continue westward towards the Bahamas and possibly the southeastern United States.

Another disturbance just west of Africa is also being monitored, but the center has determined it has only a 10% chance of developing.

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