October 25, 2011

Rina Strengthening in the NW Caribbean Sea

Convection continues to build around the circulation of Rina and a gradual increase in strength is expected over the next 24 hours. Rina is the sixth hurricane of the tropical season and has reached Category 2 strength; Rina could become a major hurricane by Wednesday.

Rina is located in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, approximately 215 miles southwest of Grand Cayman. Environmental conditions will remain somewhat favorable for strengthening in that the wind shear will be light and the sea surface temperatures are more than warm enough to sustain a system.

However, one limiting factor for significant strengthening will be a lot of dry air perched over the Gulf of Mexico that could get drawn into the circulation and slow the strengthening process down.

Through the middle of the week, Rina will continue tracking slowly toward the west, north of the coast of Honduras.

By the latter part of the week, a strong upper-level trough associated with a cold front will deepen across Texas toward the Gulf of Mexico, and we feel this will help to steer the tropical cyclone to the north and perhaps northeast.

This movement could bring the tropical system near or over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico on Thursday or Friday. Some moisture from the storm could extend northeastward across Florida, Cuba or the Bahamas by the end of the week or this weekend, but at this time it is very questionable if the center of the storm will make it much farther north than the Yucatan Channel.

However, residents of South Florida should monitor the progress of Rina very closely as some computer models do take the center of Rina over the Florida Keys or the southernmost tip of Florida later on Friday or Friday night.

The other area we are monitoring for potential development right now is a broad area of low pressure that is currently over the extreme southeastern Caribbean Sea. Although satellite imagery continues to show some shower and thunderstorm development associated with this low pressure center, it remains rather disorganized without a low-level center of circulation.

This area of low pressure will bring some gusty showers and thunderstorms to the central and southern Windward Islands today as it continues to track westward. This low center should continue to track westward across the Caribbean later in the week, and some development will be possible once it reaches the western Caribbean.

The rest of the North Atlantic tropical basin will not support tropical development for at least the next few days.

By Accuweather.com Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller

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