Aug. 14 —
Tropical Storm Josephine developed over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday and is forecast to produce gusty winds and downpours in parts of the Leeward Islands this weekend before it runs into some more weather hurdles.
Initially a depression, the system was upgraded to the ninth tropical storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and in the process has set another record for the basin.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 5 a.m. update Friday Josephine was 680 miles southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and was moving northwest at 17 mph.
Presently, Josephine is not projected to make landfall anywhere, thanks to a southward dip in the jet stream that will keep the storm at sea.
Josephine has shattered the early-season formation record for the J-named storm in the basin by nine days. The former record belonged to Jose, which developed on Aug. 22, 2005.
Prior to Josephine, the 2020 hurricane season as already left its mark on the history books multiple times so far with storms Cristobal, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna and Isaias all setting early-season formation records. Except for Cristobal, the storms bumped off record-setters from the 2005 season. The prior earliest C-named storm was Colin from 2016.
Josephine was able to form despite being in a sea of dry air as wind shear dipped enough to allow thunderstorms to wrap around the center of the storm.
“The tropical cyclone has until later Friday or Friday night to strengthen before encountering increasing vertical wind shear from the southwest,” AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert, Dan Kottlowski, said.
“We expect Josephine to move on a curved path to the northwest then the north in the coming days.”
The storm will pass just east and north of the Leeward Islands Friday night and Saturday and pass well east of the Bahamas on Sunday, Kottlowski added.
The Leeward Islands include Antiqua, Guadeloupe, Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, and the British and United States Virgin Islands.
There is the risk of gusty squalls and downpours to develop on the southern flank of the storm, even if the center passes by to the northeast of the Leeward Islands.
A weaker, poorly organized system, such as a depression is more likely to drift more to the west, but a stronger, better organized system, such as a strong tropical storm or hurricane, is more likely to turn more to the northwest over time.
Additional disturbances, known as tropical waves, will continue to move from the Indian Ocean, across Africa then over the Equatorial Atlantic Ocean in the coming days, weeks and months.
This train of disturbances makes up what is known as the Cabo Verde season, which is named for the group of islands just off the northwestern coast of Africa. The Cabo Verde season makes up the backbone of the Atlantic hurricane season during the period from late August to the first part of October.
Into next week, there will be a continued risk for one or more of these systems to organize and potentially evolve into a tropical depression or storm. But for the time being, the buffer of wind shear over the Caribbean and across part of the southwestern Atlantic may act as a shield and prevent systems from getting too close to United States waters and coastal areas.
However, that buffer zone may not last long.
The lid could come off the Atlantic basin with the potential for multiple named systems spinning at the same time, including multiple threats to lives and property at the same time from the Caribbean to North America, as early as late August.
Tropical storms are named for most letters of the alphabet, with the exception of Q, U, X, Y and Z. The infamous 2005 Atlantic hurricane season holds the record for the greatest number of named storms at 28 and still holds the record for early-season formation records for the “K-storm,” which was Katrina on Aug. 24, as well as the letters M through T, V and W. After W, Greek letters are used. Since 2005 was the only year to use Greek letters, that season holds the early-season formation records beyond W.
The climatological peak for the Atlantic hurricane season is around Sept. 10.