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Tropics are active this week, but Florida faces no threats yet

One system, off the coast of Africa, has been given a 90 percent chance of turning into Tropical Storm Larry in the next five days.
Customers stand in line to shop at a convenience store with no electricity Monday after Hurricane Ida knocked out power in the area.
Customers stand in line to shop at a convenience store with no electricity Monday after Hurricane Ida knocked out power in the area. [ ERIC GAY | AP ]
Published Aug. 30

As it often is this time of year, the tropical Atlantic Ocean was active with tropical systems and disturbances Monday.

Including Tropical Storm Ida, which is expected to dissipate by Tuesday, there were four tropical systems being monitored by the National Hurricane Center. Floridians don’t have to worry about them, however — at least not yet.

Related: TECO sends crews to Louisiana to help with Hurricane Ida recovery

Ida, a hurricane when it made landfall during the weekend, caused widespread devastation in Louisiana as Tropical Storm Kate slowly developed and officially formed in the open Atlantic on Monday. Kate is not expected to threaten land at all.

“It’s not going to be anything but a fish storm,” said Dustin Norman of the National Weather Service’s Ruskin office. “That’s the lingo we use for the storms that won’t have an impact on anything except for fish.”

The other systems being monitored by meteorologists — one in the western Gulf of Mexico, the other off the coast of Africa — were tropical disturbances Monday. The Gulf disturbance was given a 20 percent chance of formation in the next five days while the African disturbance has a much higher chance at 90 percent in the same time frame.

The five-day forecast for the tropical Atlantic.
The five-day forecast for the tropical Atlantic. [ National Hurricane Center ]

Conditions are especially favorable for the storm off Africa’s coast, Norman said, but the system is still too far away to trouble Floridians just yet. Should either disturbance strengthen into a tropical storm, it would be named Larry.

While there isn’t an imminent threat lurking in the tropics, Norman said, the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is approaching Sept. 10.

Related: TECO sends crews to Louisiana to help with Hurricane Ida recovery

There are a number of reasons the season gets busy at this time each year.

By late August, fewer and smaller plumes of Saharan dust spawn off the African mainland. Less dust means less dry air in the tropics to tamp down storms.

Most important, however, is the temperature of the ocean. While August and September aren’t the hottest months of the year in the tropical Atlantic — June and July are — they’re the months when the water is warmest.

Related: Hurricane Ida traps Louisianans, leaves the grid in shambles

This warm water fuels the intensification of storms and helps explain why storms intensify so rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Think about it like a summer day,” Norman said. “The hottest temperature doesn’t come when the sun is the highest in the sky, it comes later in the afternoon when the air has had the entire day to warm up.”

We won’t have to continue watching storms off the coast of Africa much longer this season, Norman said. As August winds down, so do the number of storms spawning off the African coast. By October, they’re rare.

Instead, he says, more storms form in the Caribbean Sea and mid-Atlantic. Last season was a prime example as hurricanes Eta and Iota — both deadly hurricanes — formed in November.

“We don’t have anything to worry about this week, which we’re not complaining about after Ida,” he said, “but we still have a long ways to go this season.”