The Dorian Dilemma: Will the Tropical Storm Survive in the Caribbean?

Tropical Storm Dorian will face numerous challenges on its journey through the Caribbean in the coming days.

Potential effects from Dorian in Florida are highly uncertain, especially considering how many unknowns there are in the forecast at this time.

As of the Monday 5 pm advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Dorian was located 60 miles southeast of Barbados, and moving west-northwest at 14 mph. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for the island of Puerto Rico, and tropical storm conditions were expected in the Windward Islands overnight.

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Forecast data suggests Dorian will navigate through a complex array of factors over the next five to seven days. Most are likely to inhibit development.

First, gradual strengthening is expected by the National Hurricane Center over the next 36 hours. This is primarily attributed to warm sea surface temperatures and marginally favorable upper level winds over the eastern Caribbean. Pockets of dry air have been recently noted on the periphery of the system, and this may temporarily delay intensification, but Dorian is still forecast to briefly become a hurricane by Wednesday.

Wind shear is a term used to describe a changing of wind speed or direction with height. When the shear is high, it can keep a tropical storm from maturing or cause it to dissipate. Higher amounts of wind shear are projected by several reliable forecast models ahead of Dorian’s likely path near the Greater Antilles. Timing is critical though, because these areas of stronger winds aloft are also on the move. If Tropical Storm Dorian arrives sooner or later than the projected wind shear, it may have little effect on the storm’s structure or intensity.

Interactions with land are also a major detriment to a tropical cyclone’s development. Multiple obstacles - islands in this case - lie in Dorian’s potential path. The large and mountainous island of Hispaniola, for example, has long been a graveyard for tropical systems. A path directly over the island would likely disrupt the storm’s circulation and result in weakening, or even dissipation. If Tropical Storm Dorian were to move between two islands, or just brush by one of them, the storm would have a better chance of staying in tact.

There is a chance, albeit a low one at this point, that Tropical Storm Dorian could affect Florida. However, it has to survive its journey to the north side of Hispaniola first. If that were to occur, long range forecast models then suggest the remnant circulation would enter an environment more favorable for intensification, and it could potentially approach the peninsula late this weekend.

While it is far too early to make a credible forecast centered around such outcome, we encourage all Floridians to stay informed of future forecasts on Tropical Storm Dorian in the coming days.

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