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New tropical depression could form off the coast of Africa

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:12 PM GMT on September 25, 2009

A tropical wave (99L) is located near 15N, 30W, about 300 miles west of the Cape Verdes Islands. This wave has seen an increase in heavy thunderstorm activity this morning, and low-level spiral bands have formed. The system can already be classified as a tropical depression using the satellite-based Dvorak technique. This morning's QuickSCAT pass showed a loose but closed circulation, with top winds of 30 mph in the heaviest thunderstorms. Wind shear is moderate, about 10 - 20 knots. There is a modest amount of dry air to 99L's west that does not appear to be interfering with the storm's organization.

Figure 1. Morning visible satellite image of Invest 99L (left side of image) and a new tropical wave moving off the coast of Africa.

As 99L moves west-northwest over the next two days, sea surface temperatures will cool by 1°C and winds shear will remain in the moderate range. Some dry air may also affect the storm. These conditions give 99L a good chance of forming into a tropical depression, and NHC has given the system a moderate (30 - 50%) chance of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. By Monday, wind shear will increase to the high range, 20 - 30 knots, and 99L will probably weaken or be torn apart. None of the computer models forecast development of 99L or any other system in the Atlantic over the next seven days.

A new tropical wave with plenty of heavy thunderstorm activity and some spin is moving off the coast of Africa today. This wave is under a moderate amount of wind shear, 10 - 20 knots, and has some potential for development this week as it moves west or west-northwest past the Cape Verdes Islands.

The latest wind shear forecasts from our major computer models show high values of wind shear affecting most of the tropical Atlantic for the next ten days. This is typical for an El Niño year, and it will be difficult for any storms to get to hurricane strength over the next ten days because of the high shear. The latest 16-day GFS forecast predicts wind shear will decline some by the 2nd week of October, though.

Figure 2. Wind shear forecast for Thursday, October 2 at 00 UTC made by last night's 00Z run of the GFS model. Wind shear is expected to be high over most of the tropical Atlantic for the next ten days, including the Caribbean. Wind shear values below 8 m/s (about 15 knots, red colors), are typically needed to support tropical storm formation.

Jeff Masters


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