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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A tropical wave in the Atlantic that could eventually head toward the Gulf of Mexico is expected to become a tropical depression soon, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The disturbance has been dubbed Invest 98L by the NHC, which means forecasters are interested in collecting specialized data and running models on the system. Two major long-term forecast models do predict the system will eventually move into the Gulf of Mexico by the middle of next week. However, it’s still far too soon to tell where the system may end up and where impacts could potentially be seen.
What we know
By Thursday night, the NHC said Invest 98L was over the southwestern Caribbean Sea, about 150 miles east-northeast of Curacao. The 8 p.m. outlook from the NHC said it was producing showers and thunderstorms that remained disorganized.
According to the NHC, a tropical depression will likely form in the next day or so as it moves west-northwest across the Caribbean and reaches more favorable environmental conditions.
“It will likely develop and strengthen because the area south of Cuba is very favorable as we head into the weekend for strengthening and organizing,” WFLA Meteorologist Amanda Holly said. “We have warm waters, light wind in the upper-levels of the atmosphere allowing the system to organize, and we’ve got a lot of energy as we head into the weekend in that particular area.”
Both GFS and Euro models show the system form south of Jamaica over the weekend. Once it does, we expect to get a better idea of where it will eventually go.
“Forecast models typically perform poorly when the system’s not formed yet,” WFLA Meteorologist Rebecca Barry explained. “When that center forms to the south of Jamaica, we’ll get much better and much more accurate long-range forecasts.”
The next thing meteorologists will watch after the system forms is how it interacts with land, like Cuba, before it enters the Gulf.
“We know interaction with land can weaken tropical systems and sometimes change their path, so that’s an area that remains a question in the forecast – how will it survive the passage if that’s the path it takes?” Barry said.
If it passes between Mexico and Cuba instead, that could make for a stronger system.
The bottom line is, as of right now, it’s likely a system will be in the Gulf of Mexico next week but it’s far too early to say where it will go. The forecast models we see now are expected to change in the coming days and will give us a better idea of what to expect once the system actually forms.
Elsewhere in the tropics
The NHC is still issuing advisories on Hurricane Fiona, which strengthened to become the first major hurricane of the season this week.
Fiona slammed Puerto Rico over the weekend, knocking out power to the entire island before dumping heavy rain on the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos. The hurricane is now headed north toward Bermuda.
Tropical Storm Gaston
Tropical Storm Gaston formed Tuesday. It does not pose any threat to the United States.
Two more waves
Two new tropical waves are moving off the coast of Africa.
The first is several hundred miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and has a low 30 percent chance of formation through five days.
The second wave is expected to emerge off the coast of Africa Thursday and has a medium 50 percent chance of formation through five days.
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