Debby Does Houston? Disturbance in the Gulf Bears Watching

The images you see above are recent model runs from two of the major weather forecasting models, both predicting a large hurricane -- which would bear the name Debby -- along the Texas coast middle of next week. And you thought the only supplies you'd be stocking up on next week were fireworks for July 4.

While the Canadian model (bottom image) has been fairly consistent along this path the last couple days, the European model (top image) just recently came around to the same conclusion. The good news is none of the other models have gone this route -- the GFS, one of the most reliable, has the disturbance moving through Florida without forming into a depression, while the others move it into northern Mexico without strengthening. But the fact that two of the major forecasting models are now in agreement is somewhat significant.

The disturbance, currently just a low pressure system sitting in the south central Gulf just north of the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, is being given a 50 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression within 48 hours by the National Hurricane Center as it moves slowly into the central Gulf of Mexico. Waters are warm and wind shear is forecast to lessen by Saturday, so there is nothing to impede the progress of what would be Tropical Storm Debby.

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Weak upper level steering currents are what provide the complicated forecast track. The GFS believes a trough of low pressure sweeping across the eastern U.S. this weekend will pull the storm in that direction, which is certainly a possibility. The longer it stays over the Gulf, the more concerned we will have to be and the more likely we have at least a tropical storm out there by early next week.

Dr. Jeff Masters, widely considered the foremost authority on hurricanes on the web, believes that the Florida track is still the most likely scenario, but, like all storms, it bears watching.

If this does become Tropical Storm Debby before the end of June, which seems likely whichever direction it goes, it would mark the fourth named storm in June, a rarity. Normally, the Atlantic has one or two named storms every other year in June. Despite calls for a lighter than normal hurricane season, it sure isn't starting out that way. Fortunately, early season activity is no indicator that we will be in for a busy year in the tropics as Dr. Masters explains in his blog:

Only twice before, in 1887 and 1959, has the third storm of the season formed earlier than June 20. Formation of three tropical storms so early in the year is not necessarily a harbinger of an active season; 1959 was close to average, with 12 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes (average is 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes.) Unusual levels of early season activity in the Caribbean and between Africa and the Lesser Antilles usually portends a very active hurricane season, but this year's storms have not formed in this region. Alberto, Beryl, and Chris all formed off the U.S. East Coast.

Of course, all it takes is one.

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