Invest 96 was birthed from a very robust wave of convection that moved off the west coast of Africa late last week, and satellite imagery Sunday showed a nice outflow and a respectable attempt to become organized as it moves southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. It seems to be carrying enough moisture in all quadrants to overcome some of the recent Saharan air that preceded it. Wind shear is rather light and convergence on it's south side near the ITCZ could probably sustain upscale thunderstorm growth over the next two or three days.
One of the biggest challenges for tropical waves originating this far east in the Atlantic, especially in the early part of the season, has been sea surface temperatures. Not only have they been cool, but as recently as last month they have been well below normal. Recent data, however, suggests the waters in the central Atlantic have warmed considerably and no longer may be as big of a road block for possible cyclone formation. For this reason, and when considering the present environment surrounding Invest 96, some development into a depression or tropical storm seems plausible by midweek. Strong ridging to it's north would likely keep it moving on a west or west-northwestward path through the period.
If Invest 96 does develop, it still faces a large uphill climb to even making it all the way across the "big pond". Our current El Niño conditions are most certainly playing a role in creating a hostile environment for tropical cyclones in the Caribbean and western Atlantic. Current and forecast data suggests abnormally dry air in the lower levels of the atmosphere and wind shear aloft will make it very difficult for the system to move much further west than the Lesser Antilles. It's interesting to note the most recent tropical wave to entire this graveyard of sorts has lost almost all definition at the surface, and it only still producing convection north of Puerto Rico because of a weak TUTT.
Regarding model data, the GFS (American) model loses the system thereafter, but a fair number of the European ensembles do show some resemblance of a closed low moving near the eastern Caribbean in about 5 to 7 days. Both of these models also have been rather consistent in showing another tropical wave with development potential moving near the Cape Verde Islands by week's end.
Closer to home, a broad and very weak area of low pressure in the mid-levels is trying to organize over the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, somewhat tied to a diffuse stalled front that has been almost a permanent feature of late. I will watch this feature closely, but at the present time conditions are not favorable for tropical cyclone formation here or anywhere else in the Atlantic Basin.