Tropical system in Caribbean could become next major hurricane to strike the US
Meteorologists are closely watching a tropical system - currently dubbed “Invest 98L” - with the potential to build into a major storm in the Caribbean or Gulf Coast region next week.
The storm has a high chance of forming into cyclone in the next five days as it moves through the southern Caribbean, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC). If so, it will likely be called Hermine or Ian from the official list of hurricane names.
While the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season got off to a slow start, Hurricane Fiona battered Puerto Rico earlier this week and is now tracking towards Canada as a category-4 storm. Tropical Storm Gaston is also swirling in the middle of the ocean but doesn’t appear to be a direct threat to land.
Although it’s too soon to forecast the full track of Invest 98L, its potential path is in the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico through Florida.
AccuWeather reports that the system could head further west and into the Gulf of Mexico, or cross over Cuba toward Florida. If it reaches the Gulf, the storm could become a major hurricane.
As the system moves westward, it will likely encounter very warm water, which can supercharge a storm and lead to a potentially dangerous weather event.
Invest (the name given to an unformed storm system being monitored by the NHC) 98L is still hovering north of Venezuela as a tropical wave, meaning a more disorganized system.
The NHC gives it an 80 per cent chance of becoming at least a tropical depression in the next two days – and a 90 per cent chance over the next five days. By the middle of next week, it has the potential to strengthen into a hurricane.
On average, hurricanes are expected to grow stronger in the coming decades as the climate crisis accelerates and increases air and ocean temperatures.
If Invest 98L were to become a tropical storm, a cyclone with winds of 39 miles per hour (63 kilometres per hour) or higher, the storm would likely be named Hermine.
However that’s only if another storm system off the west coast of Africa doesn’t become Hermine first. The NHC is tracking a system entering the Atlantic from Senegal with a 60 per cent chance of forming a cyclone in the next two days.
Another system, in the middle of the ocean, has a 30 per cent chance of forming in the next five days.
After Hermine, the next two names on the list this year are “Ian” and “Julia”.
With all this activity, the 202 Atlantic hurricane season is heating up. Hurricane Fiona hit the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday and reached Category 4 status on its way up to Atlantic Canada this week. The storm left widespread destruction and flooding in much of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier in the week, where many people are still without running water or electricity.
Prior to September, only three named storms had formed in the Atlantic, with none reaching hurricane status. This was the first year since 1997 that no named storms formed during the month of August.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had forecast an “above-normal” season this year, with up to 20 named storms and 10 hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes. If the ocean stays this active for a little while longer, the season could still reach close to some of those benchmarks.
Hurricane season lasts between June and November, usually peaking in mid-September.