July 7, 2018

New Tropical Depression Forms Off East Coast as Tiny Hurricane Beryl Collapses

The circle of life in the Atlantic Ocean is whirring once again as Beryl winds down and Chris winds up. Beryl weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Saturday morning after its surprise performance on Friday. A disturbance between Bermuda and the North Carolina coast finally developed into a tropical depression and it looks like it could make it to hurricane strength as it parallels the coast through next week.

Hurricane Chris?

An Air Force reconnaissance plane investigated Tropical Depression Three this afternoon and found it a bit disorganized as it sits a few hundred miles southeast of North Carolina's Outer Banks. The fledgling tropical depression is bigger now than Hurricane Beryl was at its strongest, truly a sad statement about the latter.

While it's unsettling to watch a storm sit and grow this close to land, the National Hurricane Center expects the cyclone to stay far enough away from the East Coast that the only problems we'll face are rip currents and rough surf. Close is close, though, and it's worth keeping an eye on it just in case things change. It's always a good idea to make sure you have emergency supplies.

Tropical Depression Three is pretty much stuck in place right now, pinned between a stalled cold front to its west and a ridge of high pressure to its east. This will allow the storm to meander for the next couple of days as it gathers strength before a trough picks the storm up and lifts it out to sea early next week.

The depression, which will gain the name Chris when it reaches tropical storm strength, will slowly gather strength thanks to the fact that it's moseying directly over the Gulf Stream. The storm should track directly over or very close to this current of warm water as it lifts off toward Newfoundland next week. Future-Chris could briefly reach hurricane strength before moving over cooler water and into a less favorable environment.

The latest forecast from the NHC shows that Chris will lose its tropical characteristics by the time it reaches Newfoundland, but it will still be a strong cyclone with gusty winds, heavy rain, and rough surf.

Beryl Collapses

Alas, poor Beryl. The loosely amalgamated clump of water vapor now known as Tropical Storm Beryl is clinging to life by a wisp of an updraft. Its low-level circulation is swirling bare, broken free of the convection that once gave it improbable life.

Beryl's triumph was its downfall. The small storm collapsed this morning just as spectacularly as it developed 36 hours ago. Beryl, much like me, fell to pieces after a minor inconvenience, in this case an intrusion of dry air and some moderate wind shear.

Nobody initially expected the itty bitty depression to strengthen into a hurricane based on its size and the hostile environment around it. Tiny hurricanes are fragile and extremely susceptible to adverse conditions. They can strengthen and weaken without much forewarning.

The 5:00 PM EDT update from the National Hurricane Center shows Beryl with maximum winds of 50 MPH in a wind field that only stretches a few dozen miles wide. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the island of Dominica as the system—or at least what's left of it—is forecast to track over the island on Sunday night. Regardless of its organization or official title, the storm or its remnants could bring heavy rain to islands susceptible to flooding and mudslides.

(I updated this post at 7:00 PM EDT with the latest information about each storm.)

[Satellite Images: NOAA | Maps: me]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.