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Developing system could be earliest 3rd tropical storm on record

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 5/29/2020 Ryan Adamson

An already active Atlantic hurricane season -- which hasn't officially begun yet -- could take a turn for the record books with a new disturbance that looks poised to strengthen. The season officially begins on June 1.

Forecasters are now monitoring an area of low pressure designated as Invest 92L, which was developing Friday morning about 700 miles southeast of Bermuda, and they say it could strengthen further in the coming days. Satellite images on Friday morning showed an area of showers and thunderstorms beginning to become better organized with a notable swirl of low pressure.

© Provided by AccuWeather
An area of showers and thunderstorms were beginning to swirl into an area of low pressure over the central Atlantic, several hundreds of miles southeast of Bermuda, on Friday, May 29, 2020. Forecasters are closely monitoring the disturbance for further development by this weekend. (NOAA / GOES-East)

The busy start to the year started with the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur on May 16, and the system narrowly missed the Outer Banks of North Carolina. That was followed by the rapid development of Tropical Storm Bertha less than two weeks later on May 27. Bertha made an unusually early landfall in the United States near Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday.

AccuWeather meteorologists have been warning that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could be a very active one, and so far it's playing out that way. There have been only five years where two storms have been named in the Atlantic during May or earlier, including 2016, 2012, 1951, 1908 and 1887.

The disturbed area of weather was being caused by a pocket of cold air in the upper atmosphere. When a cold pocket of air in the atmosphere sits over warm water, this can sometimes build from high levels of the atmosphere down to the surface. When this occurs, low pressure at the surface can develop. That may happen in the next 24-36 hours.

a close up of a map © Provided by AccuWeather

This area of disturbed weather has already been designated as an invest area. What this means is that that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is interested in collecting extra information or investigating the area in question. This provides forecasters more data to determine the possibility of development.

So far, wind shear, or changing wind speeds or directions with altitude, has caused the system to struggle to develop. However, if the system can become better organized, it may experience less shear.

Typically, tropical systems develop and strengthen most efficiently when they are over water temperatures of 80 F or higher. The system was over an area where ocean water temperatures were ranging between 75 and 77 F on Friday morning, but very warm water was located just to the south. However, the disturbance would need to develop quickly, as it will begin moving northward on Friday afternoon.

Regardless of development, the system should stay at least 300 miles east of Bermuda. Therefore, there should bring little impact to Bermuda, other than generating slightly elevated seas and rough surf.


Even though preseason tropical storm formation is not uncommon, there have never been three named storms before June 1. Therefore, if this area strengthens into a named tropical system, it would be the earliest third storm on record in the Atlantic. Cristobal is next on the predetermined 2020 Atlantic name list.

"The earliest number three storm on record is Colin, which formed on June 5, 2016," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.

Typically, the third named storm usually develops much later in the season, occurring on average in August. "Aug. 13 is the average date of the third named storm," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.

The same list of names is used every six years, unless a storm is unusually strong or deadly. Therefore, the name Cristobal was previously used in 2014. That year, Cristobal did not form until late August.

Another hotspot for tropical activity may emerge in the Atlantic, but forecasters say conditions could take longer to come together in this zone. An area of low pressure could form in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico or northwestern Caribbean Sea sometime next week. Strengthening into a more organized tropical system could occur in the area as early as next weekend, but it is more likely to happen during the second week of June. Historically, storms that develop in this region of the Atlantic basin are most likely to impact the U.S. directly this time of the year.

Stay tuned to AccuWeather's hurricane center for the latest updates on potential tropical development.

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