Satellite image showing Tropical storm Ophelia on the right side (Puerto Rico is the island at the top left). Ophelia is currently assymetic, due to strong winds from the southwest blowing thunderstorms away from the center. (NOAA)

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