|Subtropical Storm Ana can be seen churning well northeast of Bermuda in this satellite image from Saturday. Image courtesy of RAMMB/CIRA|
It begins. The official start to hurricane season is more than a week away, but the first-named storm of the season formed early Saturday morning as Subtropical Storm Ana took shape over the Atlantic Ocean, east of Bermuda. AccuWeather forecasters had been monitoring an area of low pressure since early in the week and on Saturday, the system organized and was packing sustained winds of 45 mph.
Ana developed 200 miles northeast of Bermuda early Saturday morning.
In its 11 a.m. EDT update, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was located about 175 miles northeast of Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. The storm was moving west at 3 mph.
The storm is expected to maintain that general speed and direction of movement through Saturday, before taking a more northward turn for the end of the weekend.
A tropical storm watch was in effect for Bermuda but was discontinued later in the day.
Friday, before it reached tropical storm strength, the area of low pressure being watched was dubbed Invest 90L by the National Hurricane Center. A second area with the potential for further tropical development, known as Invest 91L, became better organized early Friday in the western Gulf of Mexico before moving inland over Texas early Saturday morning and ending its chances for development.
|Satellite showed clouds becoming more organized around the center of low pressure east of Bermuda early Friday, May 21, 2021, indicating the development of tropical characteristics. (RAMMB/CIRA)|
Since Invest 90L strengthened, the National Hurricane Center named it Ana, the first name on the list of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
Ana developed from a system that earlier this week was a non-tropical storm associated with a pocket of cool air high up in the atmosphere. However, occasionally, over time, features such as this can acquire tropical characteristics, provided ocean water is warm enough to allow such a transition. When this happens, subtropical depressions or storms can be named by the NHC.
AccuWeather meteorologists do not expect Ana to develop into anything stronger than its current status. However, as it brushes Bermuda, breezy conditions with showers are likely to impact the island nation.
“Heavier rain and stronger winds will likely stay to the northeast of the islands,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Adam Douty explained.
The flurry of activity comes a year after the Atlantic hurricane season, which later turned hyperactive, began early with two systems developing before June 1.
Tropical Storm Arthur formed southeast of Florida on May 16 last year, and Tropical Storm Bertha was named after a non-tropical system rapidly strengthened over the western Atlantic, off the Georgia coast, on May 27. The tropical storm crashed ashore near Isle of Palms, S.C., a few hours after forming. Bertha unleashed locally flooding rainfall and dangerous rip currents and surf along the coast.
The 2020 season went on to become the busiest on record with 30 named systems. There were so many storms that the Greek alphabet was tapped to name nine different systems once the pre-designated list of names for the season had been exhausted — a naming convention that will no longer be used by the National Hurricane Center. A record 11 tropical systems made landfall in the United States in 2020.
The last time the name Ana was used to name an Atlantic storm, it was given to another pre-season storm that developed in the basin. In 2015, a subtropical storm formed from a non-tropical system — in a manner similar to how Ana formed — north of the Bahamas. The system went on to strengthen into a tropical storm while over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream on May 9 about 130 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach. It made landfall near North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina the next day.
In 2012, Tropical Storm Beryl also followed a similar evolution from a non-tropical system, becoming the earliest B-named storm when it became a subtropical storm on May 26. The next day it transitioned into a tropical storm and then made landfall near Jacksonville, Florida, on May 28. With maximum sustained winds of 65 mph at landfall, Beryl was the strongest out-of-season tropical cyclone to make landfall in the United States.
In any event, direct impact on the United States is not expected with Ana.
Ana is expected to be pulled northward and absorbed by a non-tropical system that is forecast to emerge from the southeastern coast of Canada early next week.
Many may wonder whether the early signs of development could signal a busy season ahead, since a similar trend occurred in 2020, and AccuWeather forecasters say there may be some echoes and similar trends to last year, albeit with less non-stop action.
“We are expecting another very busy Atlantic hurricane season for 2021,” Kottlowski said.
“There is the potential for more than 20 named storms this season in the Atlantic with three to five impacts anticipated in the U.S,” Kottlowski said.
Several tropical systems may continue to churn over the basin from mid-October through November, which is a time when tropical conditions typically diminish. How active the season gets or remains may depend on the return of La Niña.
La Niña is part of a cycle of water temperatures in the tropical Pacific that oscillates between warm and cool patterns. When waters are cooler than average over the tropical Pacific, known as La Niña, the Atlantic is often more active than average in terms of tropical activity. On the other hand, when waters are warmer than average over the tropical Pacific, known as El Niño, the Atlantic is often less active than average.
Currently, water temperatures are relatively close to average over the tropical Pacific, with a neutral phase present. Conditions are expected to remain in this state well into the summer season before a La Niña pattern may develop again. The timing of that transition will be key to just how active the season becomes.
Back in late March of this year, AccuWeather’s team of tropical weather experts, led by Kottlowski, released its annual forecast for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. The team predicted 16-20 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes. Of the storms projected to reach hurricane strength, three to five are expected to become major hurricanes — Category 3 or higher storms that have maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.