The National Hurricane Center is watching an area of thunderstorms northeast of the Caribbean. It could become Tropical Storm Patty, the 16th storm of the season, this week. (NASA)

An area of thunderstorms in the Atlantic Ocean is threatening to become the year’s 16th tropical storm, bubbling up late in the hurricane season. At the least, the islands from the northern Lesser Antilles to the Bahamas will have to watch for gusty thunderstorms over the next week. At worst, coastal communities in the Caribbean and the United States will be tracking another tropical storm, albeit a weak one, in what has already been a destructive season.

The disturbance is east of the Caribbean, moving west. On Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center gave it a 50 percent chance of becoming at least a tropical depression in the next two days and a 90 percent chance within the next five days.

“Shower and thunderstorm activity has increased and become a little more concentrated this morning,” the center wrote Monday, “and environmental conditions are forecast to gradually become more conducive for the development of a tropical depression or a tropical storm during the next day or so.” With an expected track to the west-northwest, forecasters expect the system to pass over or near the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the southern Bahamas.

If the disturbance remains weak, which model forecasts suggest it will, the impact will be minimal; there will be increased rain, thunderstorms and rough seas from the Leeward Islands to Puerto Rico from Monday through Wednesday.


The five-day outlook for an area of thunderstorms being monitored by the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters give the disturbance a 90 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone. (NOAA/NHC)

Forecast models do not predict that this system will strengthen into a hurricane. After the system drifts west-northwest through midweek, models predict a cold front will push it east on or around Friday, away from the U.S. coast.

Historically in mid-November, storms tend to form in the southern Caribbean Sea or north of the Leeward Islands, where this disturbance is located.

If it develops, the storm would be named Patty. The only other time the name Patty was used was in 2012 — a weak tropical storm east of the Bahamas that lasted a couple of days and barely moved.

As of Monday, the 2018 hurricane season was running hot. The accumulated cyclone energy, a measure of how active a season has been, was 128 percent of average for the date. The next name on the list after Patty is Rafael.

The Atlantic hurricane season ends Nov. 30, though, historically, storms have developed well beyond that date.


Formation locations for all tropical cyclones during the Nov. 11-20 period, from 1851-2015. (NOAA/NHC)