Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:38 PM GMT on January 23, 2006
This strangest of winters has produced yet another oddity--a tropical disturbance in the Caribbean that looks very much like something one would see at the height of hurricane season. Strong westerly winds aloft--typical for this time of year--have kept the Caribbean free of tropical disturbances ever since Tropical Storm Gamma dissipated in November. However, beginning yesterday, a split in the upper level wind flow coming across Central America created an area of low shear of 5-10 knots over the western Caribbean. This morning, an intense area of deep convection developed in this low-shear area, off the coast of Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula. This disturbance does have some upper-level cirrus clouds indicating outflow to the north, but not enough organization to be worried about looking for a surface circulation. Water temperatures are 26-27 C in the western Caribbean, which is warm enough to support a tropical storm. Wind shear is expected to remain low enough through Tuesday night to allow some slow development as the system moves west or west-northwest at about 15 mph. By Wednesday, wind shear is forecast to sustantially increase, and the disturbance's motion should bring it over Belize and Mexico's Yucatan. These factors make it unlikely we'll see a tropical depression. Still, it is quite remarkable that we are even talking about a system of this nature in January!
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