July 7, 2019

A Trough Over Georgia Could Become A Tropical System In The Gulf—And It's Not As Weird As It Sounds!

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring a trough of low pressure over the southeastern U.S. for signs of tropical development once it reaches the Gulf of Mexico in a couple of days. A disturbance turning into a tropical cyclone once it moves from land to sea isn't as weird as folks are making it sound on Facebook and Twitter—after all, where do you think Cape Verde hurricanes come from? (It ain't the stork!)

Sunday's 8:00 PM EDT update from the NHC gives the disturbance over northern Georgia a 60 percent chance of developing into a tropical system once it reaches the northern Gulf of Mexico later this week. Conditions are favorable for the system to slowly organize by late next week as it meanders in the northern Gulf.

Even if the storm doesn't develop, it looks like a good bit of rain will fall along the northern Gulf Coast and points inland once this whatever-it-is starts moving inland next weekend. The latest rainfall forecast from the Weather Prediction Center shows a boatload of rain (technical term!) falling across parts of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, through next Sunday, and these totals could easily tick higher if the system organizes and grows stronger once it reaches the Gulf. Flash flooding is likely in areas that see too much rain too quickly.

Everything I've seen about this system on social media so far makes a hullabaloo about the National Hurricane Center mentioning it in their outlooks while the trough was still over Tennessee. If that seems weird, it shouldn't. Lots of tropical systems begin as clusters of storms that form over land and move over the ocean.

You know how we talk about Cape Verde hurricanes and "tropical waves" moving off of Africa in August and September? Those are disturbances that begin over western Africa and move over Atlantic Ocean. Most of the big hurricanes we remember—Katrina! Andrew! Rita! Charley!—started as troughs or thunderstorms over the African continent.

Most folks just aren't used to hearing about this process occurring over the United States. Well, that, and the fact that it's a little unsettling to see a giant X over Tennessee on a map produced by the National Hurricane Center. But this is certainly one method of tropical development this early in the season, and the Gulf of Mexico is a prime location for storms to develop in July.

Oh, and if you're wondering..."Barry" is the next name on this year's list of tropical cyclone names for the Atlantic Ocean. (We used the name Andrea back in May.)

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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.