“Beryl” Becomes Season’s First Hurricane In The Atlantic Ocean

This satellite image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Huricane Irma at 1930 UTC on September 5, 2017. Tourists in Key West are packing their bags on a mandatory evacuation order as Hurricane Irma, a potent Category 5 storm, churns toward the island chain off south Florida, officials said September 5, 2017. Visitors are expected to begin leaving at sunrise Wednesday, and an order for residents will soon follow, said a statement from Monroe County, which includes the popular resort island of Key West. / AFP PHOTO / NOAA/RAMMB / Handout / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / NOAA/RAMMB" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

To everyone’s surprise, the tiny tropical depression that formed far out in the eastern Atlantic Ocean on Thursday became Hurricane Beryl in just 18 hours. Not only is that rate of strengthening impressive by itself, its formation is also 40 days ahead of the average date of a season’s first hurricane.

While hurricane-strength, Beryl is a very small storm. Tropical-storm-force winds extend an average of just 30 miles from the center. Beryl is about 1,140 miles east of the Lesser Antilles with 75-mph peak sustained winds. It is forecast to continue tracking toward the west-northwest, reaching the islands that were ravaged by Hurricane Maria last September by Monday.

Thankfully, Beryl will be nothing like Maria. While it could strengthen some in the very short term, it is forecast to weaken substantially before reaching the Lesser Antilles early Monday. It will not be a destructive storm, but some downpours and strong winds cannot be ruled out over the islands.

Forecast models have a difficult time projecting small storms such as Beryl. They tend to strengthen and weaken quickly, and their movement can be erratic. By around next Tuesday, however, they project the storm’s remnants over or near Hispaniola, where it could produce some heavy rainfall. Beyond that, it may dissipate entirely.

In addition to its miniature size and rapid rate of intensification, Beryl is also notable for gaining hurricane strength so far east in the Atlantic so early in the season. Beryl is the easternmost pre-August hurricane to develop on record for storms with an African pedigree. Usually, environmental conditions in the deep tropics are too unwelcoming to systems coming off Africa this early on.

Beryl is the first July hurricane to form in the Atlantic since Bertha in 2014.

Elsewhere in the tropical Atlantic, the only other area of interest in the coming days is off the southeast U.S. coast. Some models are hinting at the tropical development of a high-altitude disturbance as it spins off the coast Sunday and Monday. The National Hurricane Center says it has an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm over the next five days. It could be something to watch in the Carolinas for the middle of next week.

The Washington Post · Brian McNoldy 




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