by Brian K Sullivan (Bloomberg) It’s time to start watching the Atlantic Ocean for storms that could turn into hurricanes.
Two potential tropical systems are being tracked by the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami as they make their way across the warm waters west of Africa. One has a 50 percent chance of growing in the next five days, while the other has a 30 percent chance in the same period.
Some of the most devastating hurricanes have formed in this part of the Atlantic, between the Caribbean Sea and the Cape Verde Islands. Tropical systems from this area can roil energy and commodity markets by disrupting oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and damaging crops in Florida. The heart of hurricane season usually extends from late August to the end of September.
“These are kind of wake-up calls for us,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I am not expecting either of these two tropical waves to develop, but we should definitely keep an eye on them.”
One system is about 1,200 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and has the potential to bring heavy rain to Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the next few days, Masters said. If it survives the mountains, it could drift into the Gulf of Mexico.
“After that all bets are off,” Masters said. “The crystal ball is really murky that far into the future.”
About four percent of U.S. marketed natural gas production comes from the Gulf, along with 17 percent of crude oil, Energy Information Administration data show. The Gulf is also home to more than 45 percent of petroleum-refining capacity and 51 percent of gas processing.
Florida is the world’s second-largest orange juice producer behind Brazil. More than 6.6 million homes with an estimated reconstruction cost of $1.5 trillion lay in areas vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, according to CoreLogic Inc., a financial data provider.
The second system is about 200 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands. As it moves west, it will leave conditions favorable for development and enter an area with wind shear that can rip at a storm’s structure and dry air that can sap it of its strength.
That system “is really unorganized right now,” said Ed Vallee, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
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