Ernesto Marches On, May Be a Hurricane Soon
Tropical Storm Ernesto, which was merely a tropical depression Thursday, has now crossed from the Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean Sea, where it’s likely to spend the next four or five days moving in a west by northwesterly direction, aiming generally toward the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. (Here’s a radar movie that shows it passing over St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles, the island chain that marks the Atlantic/Caribbean border).
Ernesto is still a loosely organized storm, with sustained winds barely strong enough to qualify it as a tropical storm. According to research scientist and blogger Brian McNoldy, the relatively dry air and wind shear Ernesto is now passing through will keep it from strengthening much over the next day or so, but McNoldy says conditions are likely to improve (from Ernesto’s point of view, anyway). The National Hurricane Center has now forecast that Ernesto will become a hurricane by the time it reaches the western Caribbean.
That sounds ominous, and it could be, but hurricane-intensity forecasts are notoriously unreliable that far in advance. In its Tropical Cyclone Plan of the Day, the National Hurricane Center announced it would continue flying into the storm to get a better handle on Ernesto’s particulars.
In the meantime, storm watchers have their eyes on two more potential trouble spots. One is an area of cloudiness and rain located over the Bahamas; forecasters give it no more than a 10 percent chance of developing into a tropical storm, but hurricane-hunter aircraft are flying in just in case. Another stormy area in the eastern Atlantic has a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm, but this one is so far away that there’s nothing more to be said at this point.