Tropical Storm Bret, which formed on Monday as the second named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, is headed toward the Lesser Antilles and is expected to intensify but remain a tropical storm the rest of the week, said the National Hurricane Center. .
Bret formed about 1,300 miles east of the Windward Islands, and was about 415 miles east of Barbados on Wednesday afternoon, moving west at 15 miles per hour to the tropical Atlantic. “This general movement with an increase in forward speed is expected in the coming days,” the National Hurricane Center said.
The center added that the Air Force Hurricane Hunter plane was investigating the system Wednesday afternoon and found that maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph with higher gusts.
The storm was initially forecast to become the first hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic season and is expected to be near hurricane strength when it makes landfall on some islands in the eastern Caribbean on Thursday.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Barbados, Dominica and Martinique, and a tropical storm warning was in effect for St. Lucia, the center said.
The storm is expected to reach parts of the Lesser Antilles by Thursday afternoon and evening, then move across the eastern Caribbean Sea on Friday. The storm may pose a risk of flooding from heavy rains, high winds and dangerous surf, the center said. Forecasters urged everyone in the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to monitor the storm closely and be prepared.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica shared disaster preparedness tips on Wednesday, urgent residents stay alert during heavy rains and “be prepared to move to a safe area if rising water is observed.”
The Barbados Weather Services have also warned residents of possible flash flooding in low-lying districts.
However, the storm’s track is uncertain, and it’s unclear which islands could expect to receive the worst impact. Rain, high winds and storm surges could occur in the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but Bret is expected to weaken after moving to the Caribbean.
Rain is expected until Saturday. Three to six inches are expected with maximum amounts up to 10 inches in parts of the Lesser Antilles, extending from Guadeloupe as far south as St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Another Bret-like storm system is following in its footsteps and could make Cindy, the third named storm of the season, later this week. Tropical storms earn a name once they have sustained winds of 39 mph. Once winds reach 74 mph, a storm becomes a hurricane, and at 111 mph it becomes a major hurricane.
Bret is the third tropical cyclone to reach tropical storm strength this year. The National Hurricane Center said in May which had reassessed a storm that formed off the northeastern United States in mid-January and determined it to be a subtropical storm, making it the first Atlantic cyclone of the year. However, the storm was not retroactively named, making Arlene, which formed in the Gulf of Mexico on June 2, the first named storm in the Atlantic Basin this year.
The Atlantic hurricane season began on June 1 and ends on November 30.
In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, an “almost normal” amount. There were 14 named storms last year, following two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to fall back on backup lists. (In 2020, there were a record 30 named storms.)
However, NOAA didn’t express much certainty in its forecasts this year, saying there was a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of a better-than-normal season, and a 30% chance of a lower season – normal season.
There were indications of above-average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, which could fuel storms, and the potential for a higher-than-normal West African monsoon. The monsoon season produces thunderstorm activity that can lead to some of the most powerful and long-lasting Atlantic storms.
This year also features El Niño, which arrived this month. The phenomenon of intermittent weather can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world, including a reduction in the number of Atlantic hurricanes.
In the Atlantic, El Niño increases the amount of wind shear, or the change in wind speed and direction from the ocean or land surface to the atmosphere. Hurricanes need a calm environment to form, and the instability caused by increased wind shear makes these conditions less likely. (El Niño has the opposite effect in the Pacific, reducing the amount of wind shear.) Even in average or below-average years, there’s a chance a powerful storm will hit.
As global warming gets worse, this possibility increases. There is a solid consensus among scientists that hurricanes are getting more powerful due to climate change. While there may be no more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.
Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain storms can produce. In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, meaning a named storm can hold and produce more precipitation, as did Hurricane Harvey in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.
The researchers also found that storms have slowed down, staying over areas longer, in recent decades.
Other potential effects of climate change include increased storm surge, rapid intensification, and broader reach of tropical systems.
Rebecca Carballo, Johnny Diaz Orlando Mayor, Livia Albeck Ripka AND derrick bryson taylor contributed report.