The Atlantic's third named storm of the year is barely holding itself together this morning. Tropical Storm Chantal is briskly moving through the waters of the Caribbean towards the west at about 28 mph, but it is showing signs of disintegration. In fact, the National Hurricane Center is calling for it to possibly be downgraded to a tropical wave as early as this afternoon, with a slight chance of re-strengthening in a few days off the eastern coast of Florida.
Since Chantal had virtually no chance to make it to the Texas coastline, you might wonder why we should care. For one thing, if you are headed to Florida this weekend, you should take an umbrella. Even if Chantal does indeed fall to pieces, its remnants should still bring quite a bit of rain to the Florida peninsula in the next three to five days. Also, despite Chantal's struggle against ruthless wind shear, this is a storm that formed deep in the Atlantic basin, a rarity for this early in the hurricane season. With two storms forming this far south this early, it is likely an indicator of a very busy season.
In fact, the last time we saw two storms form this far south this early in the year was 2005, which was a record-setting year that included both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
This doesn't necessarily mean we will have many intense hurricanes and that they will be taking aim at the Texas coastline. Both storms that formed in 2005 were major hurricanes -- Dennis as a category 5 and Emily as a category 4 -- and the two we've had this year have been moderate tropical storms. But it does indicate that this will likely be a very busy season.
When you look at where Chantal was yesterday, it was on its way to becoming a hurricane, but it ran into Hispaniola. The mountain range there has taken its toll on quite a few hurricanes. There are also a number of other factors that have inhibited development, from high wind shear and dry air to the storm's quick-paced forward speed, but the fact that it formed in the first place is the more significant characteristic.
For now, Chantal is little threat to anyone, and the tropics, looking at the global forecast models, appear to remain relatively quiet over the next week to 10 days. But Chantal is a good reminder that we will be reaching the heart of hurricane season in just over a month, and it is important to pay attention to the tropics when you live near the coast.
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