Tropical storm Ophelia, the Atlantic’s 15th named storm of 2011, formed last night and has slowly intensified over the last 12 hours. Positioned 1245 miles east of the Leeward islands, its maximum sustained winds are 60 mph. Its westward forward speed of 16 mph is forecast to continue for another day before a slight turn more to the north.
Ophelia is currently battling strong wind shear from the southwest, disrupting thunderstorm development and the overall structure, which is anything but symmetric. This shear is expected to persist as the storm continues westbound, greatly decreasing the likelihood it will reach hurricane status. Dry air ahead of the storm is another impediment to the storm’s development as CWG tropical weather expert Greg Postel posted yesterday.
The National Hurricane Center’s official forecast, in fact, weakens Ophelia to a minimal tropical storm in five days. Some model guidance disintegrates the storm entirely. If it holds together, it could clip the Leeward Islands (the region from Dominica to eastern Puerto Rico) this weekend. Beyond that, steering currents - due to a persistent trough (or dip in the jet stream) over the Eastern U.S. - would likely turn Ophelia to the north and then northeast, away from the East Coast but possibly near Bermuda.
Wunderground’s Jeff Masters notes Ophelia puts 2011 in 10th place for most number of named storms in a year since records began in 1851, and that Opehlia marks the fourth earliest date for a given season’s 15th storm (only 2005, 1936, and 1933 had earlier 15th storms).
Related: Hurricane Tracking Center