The tropics are heating up with AccuWeather meteorologists monitoring several tropical systems in the Atlantic hurricane basin, as well as the potential for the first tropical storm of the season to take shape in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
As of 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, Tropical Storm Bret was 130 miles east-northeast of the island of Barbados in the eastern Caribbean and was tracking along at 14 mph.
A pass through the storm’s center by the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft found that Bret strengthened on Wednesday night, reaching maximum sustained winds of 70 mph as it tracked toward the Lesser Antilles. According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, winds would need to exceed 73 mph in order for Bret to be upgraded to a hurricane.
“The window is rapidly closing for Bret to strengthen further,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.
The storm’s upcoming position in the Caribbean Sea will play a significant role in its intensity potential; given the expansive zone of increased wind shear, the feature is expected to move across the Caribbean Sea in the coming days.
Wind shear can be a critical factor for a tropical system’s organization and intensity. Wind shear, or disruptive winds, is the change in direction and increases in the speed of breezes across the surface of the Earth and at different altitudes in the atmosphere.
“Think of tropical storms and hurricanes as a neat, tall stack of pancakes. Strong vertical wind shear can cause some pancakes to be displaced, and the stack could fall over,” explained AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva.
Forecasters note that it is still possible for Bret to become a Category 1 Hurricane as it nears the Lesser Antilles throughout Thursday. However, chances are becoming more and more limited as it moves westward.
A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning were issued for St. Lucia, an eastern Caribbean island nation, Wednesday night. Strong, gusty winds associated with Tropical Storm Bret will spread across Barbados as the storm’s center passes just north of the island. Wind gusts are expected to reach between 40 and 60 mph on Thursday in Barbados as Bret’s outer rainbands reach the island.
Across the Eastern Caribbean islands, wind gusts are expected to be the strongest from Martinique to St. Lucia into Friday. AccuWeather forecasters say that peak gusts could climb to 80-100 mph Thursday afternoon or evening as the tropical storm passes over the region. The AccuWeather Local StormMax™ for wind gusts is 100 mph.
Rainfall totals can range between 1 and 2 inches across Barbados but can reach up to 2-4 inches with the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches across a portion of the Lesser Antilles from Guadeloupe to St. Lucia. A combination of strong winds and tropical downpours can cause flooding, downed trees and even power outages across the islands. Forecasters point out that mudslides are possible, especially at higher elevations.
After passing through the Lesser Antilles, Bret is expected to track over the open waters of the Caribbean Sea, and conditions will become much less favorable for further strengthening. Into this weekend, the storm will gradually lose wind intensity and eventually transition to a tropical depression.
Moisture from Bret will bring tropical downpours to parts of Hispaniola and Jamaica on Saturday and Sunday. Even as Bret becomes disorganized, tropical moisture can continue to push westward into portions of Central America during the first half of next week.
At 11 a.m. EDT Thursday, the feature following closely behind Bret was at 5 a.m. EDT Thursday was given the designation of Tropical Depression Four by the National Hurricane Center. At this time, Tropical Depression Four was tracking west-northwestward at 15 mph, located around 1,270 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, and had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. Since Wednesday, this feature has become more organized and now has a well-defined center.
AccuWeather meteorologists say that Tropical Depression Four is expected to intensify into a tropical storm later Thursday as it tracks to the west-northwest north of the Leeward Islands. This system is not likely to impact land as it remains well north of the Greater Antilles. Still, shipping and boating interests within the region should closely monitor this feature’s location and intensity.
If this system strengthens into a tropical storm, it will claim the next name on the 2023 Atlantic tropical cyclone list and become Cindy.
For it to reach tropical storm strength, it would need to have a well-defined circulation and sustained winds of 39-72 mph.
Through this weekend, forecasters say that Tropical Depression Four will shift to the north-northwest and continue its path north of the Lesser Antilles. Once it moves well to the north of Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands early next week, it is expected to enter a less favorable environment for further development. At this time, chances remain low for this feature to be upgraded to hurricane strength.
In the East Pacific, AccuWeather meteorologists are closely watching several poorly organized waves this week. However, activity is likely to ramp up sometime early next week across the basin.
A zone of low pressure is expected to develop off the southern coast of Mexico this weekend. Forecasters say that this tropical low has a high risk of forming into a tropical depression in the Pacific early next week.
If this feature develops into a tropical depression or tropical storm, it is unlikely to bring impacts to land. The next name on the 2023 East Pacific tropical cyclone list would be Adrian.
Produced in association with AccuWeather