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Tropical Storm Ian is expected to become a hurricane on Monday

The storm could rapidly intensify into a major hurricane by Tuesday morning. Its forecast path is toward the west coast of Florida late next week.

NEW ORLEANS —

Eye on the Tropics:

The tropics remain pretty busy with three active storms swirling around in different locations as of Sunday morning, but the only one set to strengthen is Tropical Storm Ian in the central Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, this is also the system that could eventually impact the western coast of Florida as a strong hurricane by the end of next week.

At the moment, Ian is getting slightly better organized in the center of the Caribbean Sea. It is expected to stay a tropical storm through Sunday before becoming a hurricane Monday. It will likely tap into the warm waters and low wind shear environment of the northern Caribbean and could rapidly intensify on Monday. It could already be a major hurricane when it clips the western coast of Cuba early Tuesday. 

It should move into the southeast Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday potentially as a major hurricane. The National Hurricane Center's latest forecast calls for it to be a Category 4 storm by that point. 

A curve to the north and northeast is expected on Wednesday and Thursday as it steers toward a trough of low pressure over the eastern US and rounds a high pressure area to its east. This would put it on track to reach the western coast of Florida by late Thursday. Models have shifted slightly westward with this system on Saturday. The cone of uncertainty indicates a landfall anywhere from Pensacola to Naples, Florida.

Right now there are no tropical impacts expected for Louisiana and Mississippi aside from swells off the coast next week and a north breeze Wednesday through Friday. We'll continue tracking it closely, but even if the path shifts a little farther west, our local area would still be on the drier and less intense side of the storm's center.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Gaston brought wind and rain to the Azores Islands, but conditions there should ease late Saturday. It will stay over the northern Atlantic before dissipating in the next few days.

Hermine has weakened to a tropical depression in the eastern Atlantic close to the coast of Africa. It brought rain to the Canary Islands, but it is expected to continue weakening.

HURRICANE CENTER: Live Radar, 5-Day Projected Path, Spaghetti Plots

2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

Federal meteorologists updated their Atlantic hurricane season outlook on August 4. They still predicted an above-average season, but they brought numbers down a bit.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a total of 14 to 20 named storms, six to 10 becoming hurricanes and three to five intensifying into major hurricanes with winds greater than 110 mph. Even with averages shifting upward to reflect more active storm seasons in recent decades, these predictions are above the 30-year average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Credit: WWL

The National Hurricane Center ran out of names for Atlantic storms in the last two years, with a record-setting 30 named storms in 2020 and 21 last year. In the past five years there have been more Category 4 and 5 hurricane landfalls in the United States than in the previous 50 years combined.

Several outside hurricane experts agree with NOAA that the Atlantic conditions are ripe for yet another active hurricane season, even though the season has been near average so far. They say La Nina reduces wind shear that could decapitate storms. The warmer water — about half a degree warmer than last year in storm-forming areas — serves as hurricane fuel. A reduction in pollution particles in the air has taken away artificial cooling in the Atlantic and a new study links that to increasing storms.

One key indicator, that takes into account the number of storms, how strong they are and how long they last, is called Accumulated Cyclone Energy index or ACE. This year could be as much as double what’s been normal since 1950. The calculation is used when determining what is an average season and what's above average.                

The average ACE since 1950 is just shy of 100, while the last six years have ranged from 132 to 225 in 2017.

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