Update 7:55 p.m.: The chances that a tropical system will develop over the next five days was increased to 60 percent by the National Hurricane Center.
The special tropical update, which was issued at 7:40 p.m., said a newly formed area of low pressure has emerged a few hundred miles northeast of the Bahamas.
The system is supposed to move slowly west-northwest toward the southeastern U.S. That will put it into warmer waters and weaker wind shear, which could allow it to more fully develop.
Center forecasters also increased the chance of development through 48 hours to 30 percent.
The next tropical outlook will be issued by 9 a.m. Thursday.
There is no guarantee something will form.
“To get a defined depression we need a little bit better circulation to happen, and that very well could happen as we head into the holiday weekend,” said Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert with AccuWeather. “The expectation now is that it will track northwest from the northern Bahamas and be off the coast of Jacksonville Friday or Saturday.”
From there, it could head north, or stall out, spinning for a while before moving out to sea, Kottlowski said.
“There is definitely a chance it could be a tropical storm, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty and the process in this case takes a long time,” he said.
No forecasters were expecting the system to gain much strength, but it was dubbed Invest 91-L, meaning it has the potential to gain tropical characteristics. The National Hurricane Center numbers areas to “investigate” beginning with 90. The “L” represents the North Atlantic basin. Invest 90-L became Hurricane Alex in January.
Despite the questionable future of 91-L, Florida’s National Weather Service forecasting offices began taking note of the system Wednesday, distributing short forecasts on potential Memorial Day weekend weather.
For South Florida, the system may prove a boon. Depending on its location, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties could end up in the southwest quadrant of the storm where a more westerly flow would mean drier air.
“Sometimes you get dry air that wraps into these things and it may even reduce the storms a little for us,” Ippoliti said. “The north side of the system, if it comes ashore, would bring the heavier rain toward Myrtle Beach and the Outer Banks.”
Previous story: The National Hurricane Center has increased the chances of a tropical system developing in the next five days to 50 percent.
A special tropical weather outlook issued at 8:15 this morning says environmental conditions are expected to become more favorable for a subtropical to tropical system to form by Friday.
The system would be named Bonnie if it gained tropical storm force, but meteorologists aren’t ready yet to declare that a possibility.
While just a grouping of showers and thunderstorms now, wind shear, which is deadly to tropical storms, is expected to weaken over the next few days. Hurricane Center forecasters believe the system will move west-northwest toward the U.S. southeast coast over the weekend.
Hurricane season doesn’t officially start until June 1.
The next tropical weather outlook will be issued by 8 p.m. The chances of something forming within the next two days is low at just 10 percent.
Mark Sudduth, a geographer and founder of Hurricanetrack.com, said the potential system is the result of a frontal boundary “tangling up with an upper level piece of energy or trough.”
Even if the system develops, Sudduth said he doesn’t think it will be more than a rain maker.
“Water temps in the region are only marginal for development though they do get warmer in the Gulf Stream closer to the coast,” Sudduth wrote in a blog this morning. “If this were August, I would be more concerned, it’s May so my level of concern is about a 1 out of 10 – mainly due to the potential for heavy rain and possible rough surf conditions along some of the beaches along the Southeast coast.”
While a few days ahead of schedule, early tropical development has some precedents.
Hurricanes have formed in every month but February. Last year, Tropical Storm Ana opened the 2015 hurricane season with a May 9 debut.
This year, Hurricane Alex formed Jan. 14, making it only the second January-born Atlantic hurricane on record.
Other hurricanes refusing to adhere to man’s calendar include Alice, which formed Dec. 31, 1954, but managed to live through the New Year before dissipating Jan. 4. Another tropical storm dubbed Ana formed in 2003 on April 20, while Alberto was named on May 19, 2012. Alberto was followed just days later by Beryl, which formed May 26 of that year.