Tropical Storm Gonzalo Forms in the Atlantic

(THE WEATHER CHANNEL) – Tropical Storm Gonzalo has formed in the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and the Lesser Antilles and may impact parts of the Windward Islands this weekend.

This system is located well over 1,000 miles east of the southern Windward Islands, moving west-northwest.

Gonzalo is the earliest seventh named tropical storm on record to form in the Atlantic basin, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a tropical scientist at Colorado State University. The previous record was held by Tropical Storm Gert, which developed on July 24, 2005.

Gonzalo’s tiny size and the environment around it pose major forecast challenges for its future intensity.

Dry air is currently to the west and north of Gonzalo, which is one factor that can weaken and disrupt tropical cyclones.

While shearing winds are currently not near this system, it may encounter increased wind shear as it nears the Windward Islands this weekend.

These factors would argue for a weakening of Gonzalo by the time it nears the Windward Islands Saturday.

Small tropical storms like this can intensify quickly in the right conditions, but they can also succumb to unfavorable conditions more quickly than a larger storm. In other words, they can strengthen and weaken much more and at a faster rate than expected.

So, the range of outcomes for the intensity forecast is large, anywhere from this storm remaining weak or dissipating east of the Windward Islands, to a possible strong tropical storm or hurricane.

Fortunately, the track forecast is a bit more straightforward. We expect a general west-northwest track into the Windward Islands by Saturday.

Interests in the Lesser Antilles, including areas as far south as Trinidad and Tobago, even the northern coast of Venezuela, should monitor the progress of this Gonzalo closely.

First of the Main Development Region

Gonzalo is the first tropical storm this season to form in the so-called “main development region” of the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and the Lesser Antilles.

It’s a sign we’re headed toward the prime months of the hurricane season, when tropical storms and hurricanes can form not just in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Southeast coast or western Caribbean Sea, but also in this main development region and take long tracks through the Atlantic Basin.