Gaston eyes Caribbean

Tropical Storm Gaston weakened to a
tropical depression on Thursday morning, but it was still expected to
re-strengthen and become a hurricane early next week as it approaches the
Caribbean Sea.

Although the three Cape Verde
storms that formed in August – Colin, Danielle and Earl – all curved to the
north before entering the Caribbean, the steering patterns are now pushing
these storms farther west, which could potentially impact the Cayman Islands.  Cape Verde storms are the types that form
after emerging from the west coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands and
then travel across the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Accuweather meteorologist Mike
Pigott said Gaston was moving very slowly Thursday because the Bermuda-Azores
High was weak. However, Pigott said the high was expected to strengthen over
the weekend, speeding Gaston up and pushing it westward toward the Caribbean
Sea.

“At this point, Gaston is expected
to enter the Eastern Caribbean next week,” he said.

At that point, a trough of low
pressure is forecast to form over the eastern United States, creating a
weakness in the high and pulling Gaston northward, similar to the way Hurricanes
Danielle and Earl were pulled to the north, Pigott said.  However, he warned that the forecast was
looking more than a week ahead, so it was difficult to say with certainty if
and when Gaston would move north.

“As of right now, there’s no reason
to believe it won’t,” Pigott said, noting the warm sea surface temperatures in
the tropical Atlantic. “The water temperatures are extremely favourable for
development. I would expect to see low and steady development of the storm.”

Pigott noted that the peak of the
hurricane season occurs next week and that the weather pattern seemed to be
setting up in a way that would steer Cape Verde storms westward, putting the
Cayman Islands “slightly more at risk from mid-September to late September”.

After only three named storms
formed in the first 82 days of the 2010 Atlantic Basin hurricane season, four
named storms formed in the subsequent 11 days, with Danielle and Earl both
becoming major hurricanes of Category 3 or above. Although Danielle ultimately
curved into the open Atlantic and became a ‘fish storm’, Earl was bearing down
on the US East Coast Thursday, with potential landfalls in North Carolina,
Massachusetts and Maine.

Despite the relatively slow start
of the hurricane season, forecasters stuck to their predictions of a very
active hurricane season when they updated their predictions in early August.
According to the forecast of Colorado State University scientists Phil
Klotzbach and William Gray, there are still 11 named storms, seven hurricanes
and three major hurricanes left to come this year. What’s more, Klotzbach and
Gray predicted higher than average hurricane activity in the Caribbean this
year, something that really hasn’t happened yet. Historically, some of the
worst hurricanes to affect the Cayman Islands occurred in October and early November,
after the Cape Verde season was generally over and storms tend to form in the
Western Caribbean.

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