Tropical depression forms in the far eastern Atlantic, may threaten the Caribbean

August 29th, 2011 - 7:54 pm ICT by BNO News  

MIAMI (BNO NEWS) — Tropical Depression Twelve formed in the far eastern Atlantic on early Monday morning, forecasters said. The depression is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane later this week, after which it may threaten the Caribbean.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) have been following the weather system since Saturday evening when it emerged as a large area of showers and thunderstorms off the west coast of Africa. It became better organized on Sunday in association with a low pressure area.

“The area of low pressure in the far eastern Atlantic to the south of the Cape Verde Islands has gained sufficient convective organization to be classified as a tropical depression,” said NHC senior hurricane specialist Michael Brennan. The system is located about 395 miles (635 kilometers) south-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands.

As of 5 a.m. AST (0900 GMT), Twelve had maximum sustained winds near 35 miles (55 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts. “The depression is currently in an easterly shear environment situated to the south of an upper-level ridge over the eastern Atlantic,” Brennan explained. “Some easterly shear is expected to persist, but otherwise the environment should be conducive for strengthening through the period.”

Brennan said Twelve could reach tropical storm strength later on Monday, and strengthen into a hurricane by early Thursday morning. “After [48 hours] the cyclone should strengthen a little more quickly as it moves over progressively higher ocean heat content,” the forecaster said.

Twelve is currently moving towards the west at a speed near 15 miles (24 kilometers) per hour, and a turn toward the west-northwest is expected during the next few days. Although it is too early to predict its exact path, forecasts show the system could threaten parts of the Caribbean as a hurricane next week.

Twelve is the twelfth storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, following Hurricane Irene which formed east of the Leeward Islands on August 20 and became post-tropical on Sunday, although its remains are still impacting Canada. Irene left a trial of destruction in the Caribbean and on the U.S. East Coast, killing at least 24 people.

If Twelve strengthens into a tropical storm as expected, it will be given the name Katia.

According to figures released earlier this month, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is expecting an above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. The outlook calls for 14 to 19 named storms, with seven to ten becoming hurricanes and three to five expected to become a major hurricane (category 3 or higher).

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes and two becoming major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with peak activity in September.

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