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Alberto born; a sequel is on the way

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One is sprawling, the other delicate; one is messy, the other is neat.

As we enter the third week of hurricane season, we have a strange situation in the tropics: The first named storm of 2024 is trudging across the western Gulf and a feathery disturbance is approaching Florida from the east. And as with all venerable intellectual property, this classic setup could be rebooted in an immediate sequel early next week.

Tropical Storm Alberto forms with little chance of strengthening

First things first: The newly designated Tropical Storm Alberto has spread its thunderstorm activity across the western half of the Gulf of Mexico, much of Central America, and part of the eastern Pacific, and is in full swing as it heads west toward northern Mexico. Alberto has been slowly forming this week from a broad vortex of cyclonic rotation that sometimes forms over Central America at the beginning or end of hurricane season, logically called the Central American Gyre (CAG).

While this vortex gave Alberto its outsized shape, the larger the disturbance, the slower the rate of strengthening. Although Alberto is producing weak tropical storm-force winds hundreds of miles north of its center, little additional intensification from its peak winds of 40 mph at 11 a.m. Wednesday is likely before its landfall early Thursday.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for southern Texas and northern Mexico. In the next one to two days, these areas will also experience storm surges of several meters along the coast.

The main impact of Alberto will be flash flooding.

Storm force winds of 4-8 inches are likely in the southern Rio Grande Valley, which may well cause localized flash flooding, especially in urban areas. South Texas is experiencing a drought, so the region will also benefit from the drought. Rainfall will taper off by Friday as Alberto moves westward through Mexico, guided by a powerful ridge of high pressure to the north.

A windy tropical system approaches Florida with little power, increased chance of rain

This week's jet stream pattern over the eastern United States features more ridges than ruffles, so expect high pressure to also be the dominant influence on a small disturbance several hundred miles east of Florida.

Thunderstorm activity in this small low pressure system will remain limited due to a nearby dry air mass and will not likely organize further before it reaches Florida. However, a small chance of last-minute development while crossing the Gulf Stream cannot be ruled out, as the intensity of small systems takes the elevator up (or down) unlike large storms.

Even if a low pressure system or minimal tropical storm forms briefly, the impact on Florida will be little different than on a typical June day.

Expect increased rain chances along Florida's Atlantic coast and in northern Florida on Thursday and Friday and continued windy conditions through the weekend, but that's about it. Most likely the only necessary watch or warning is a clickbait watch out for the usual suspects on social media who exaggerate this modest phenomenon.

A brief history of Albertos and expect a kind of stormy sequel until the end of June

Climatologically speaking, these two features should be enough for late June. However, unlike twenty years ago when Spiderman was rebooted every five years, today Spiderman is rebooted literally thousands of times per film, so a tropical reboot is in the works.

The never-ending vortex is expected to spit another disturbance into the southern Gulf of Mexico almost as soon as Alberto makes landfall, and modeling suggests that this extended rotation area could slowly develop into a tropical depression over the weekend.

The initial forecasts on the path and impact of this disturbance suggest that it could mimic Alberto, although perhaps slightly weaker, with a general track toward Mexico and rainfall extending northward into Texas by early next week. Oddly, this system could also be accompanied by its own small disturbance east of Florida, although there are indications that this will likely stay offshore, with an even lower chance of tropical development than during the first round.

One final synchronicity worth mentioning: Do you have a sense of déjà vu when you hear about Alberto?

If so, it's because this isn't the name's first trip through the content mines.

This is the eighth iteration of a name that first appeared on the NHC list in 1982 and has been repeated every six years since then. Oddly, an Alberto has hit Florida every 12 years since 1982, including tropical storm landfalls in 1994, 2006, and 2018.

While Alberto V08's path into the western Gulf fits this pattern, if history rhymes, Florida residents should set a reminder on their Google Calendar now to expect heavy rains in June 2030.

In the meantime, we'll have to keep an eye on our pair of comically mismatched dyads this week, whether they're spreading rainfall across Florida and the Gulf Coast or working together at night to solve crimes in a CBS spin-off tentatively titled NHC: Miami.

David Caruso might say that if smugglers were smuggling contraband through Miami International Airport in the rear engine of an L-1011, they should keep their eyes on the skies.

Dr. Ryan Truchelut is chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee-based company that provides forensic meteorology expert services and agricultural and hurricane forecast subscriptions. Visit weathertiger.com to find out how you can use our expertise to your advantage.

Anna Harden

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