A storm with two names: Will Pacific Barbara morph into Atlantic Andrea?

Barbara, the second named storm in the East Pacific this year, strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane just prior to making landfall on Wednesday afternoon near Tonalá in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. It is just now re-emerging over water, this time in the Gulf of Mexico.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, it has weakened to a tropical depression with winds of 30 mph. Could it redevelop and reach storm intensity once more?

Satellite image of Tropical Depression Barbara (NASA)

Satellite image of Tropical Depression Barbara (NASA)

Although it is poorly organized after a draining 15-hour trek over land, there is still a mid-level circulation and a few strong associated thunderstorms.

As for its future prospects, conditions in the Bay of Campeche are marginal for development. Although water temperatures are plenty warm, upper-level winds are quite strong. Further north toward the central Gulf, the wind shear is outright hostile.

In the unlikely event that it does manage to reform, it would start over with Atlantic numbering and naming. In other words, it would lose its Barbara heritage and become tropical depression 1 and then tropical storm Andrea. Steering winds are weak, and the storm or its remnants would drift slowly north or west near the Mexican coast.

Barbara's previous track in white, current location is the red L, and forecast tracks from several models in thin colored lines.

Barbara’s previous track in white, current location is the red L, and forecast tracks from several models in thin colored lines.

It’s quite rare to have a tropical cyclone move from the East Pacific to the Atlantic and be a named storm in both basins. In mid-October 1923, the 6th named Atlantic storm made such a Pacific to Atlantic crossing.

Its slightly less rare to have the opposite occur (see list of historical cases). In either case, the storm names changes when a storm crosses basins. There is no Barbara in the 2013 Atlantic list, so the Pacific-born storm would require a new name from the Atlantic list.

Saturday is the first official day of the Atlantic hurricane season (see “What’s New and What Should We Expect?”), and the first few names on the list are Andrea, Barry, and Chantal. As of now, the basin looks quiet for the foreseeable future… with the exception of the disturbance in the Bay of Campeche of course!

* Brian McNoldy is a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

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