Jul 6, 2018 - Science

Tiny Hurricane Beryl marks the Atlantic's first hurricane of the season

Satellite image showing tiny Hurricane Beryl in the Atlantic Ocean.

Visible satellite image showing tiny Hurricane Beryl and its "pinhole eye" in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Credit: CIRA.

Hurricane Beryl formed in the tropical Atlantic Ocean early on Friday morning, packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

The big picture: The storm is unusually tiny, with a radius of hurricane force winds of just 10 miles, and with tropical storm force winds felt just 35 miles away from the center. It's forecast to intensify on Friday before weakening as it approaches the Lesser Antilles Islands.

The details: Hurricane Beryl's intensity forecast has befuddled forecasters already, because of the storm's size. It's difficult for computer models to capture regularly-sized hurricanes, but Beryl's tiny proportions make it even more difficult to simulate using even the more high-resolution models, which can capture storm systems that are small in scale.

  • With most tropical storms and hurricanes, the strong winds are felt much farther from the center, and the clouds extend outward as much as 1,000 miles away from the actual center of the hurricane.

Between the lines: "Due to its very small size, there is greater-than-usual uncertainty in the analysis of Beryl's current intensity. Confidence in the official intensity forecast is also much lower than normal. Rapid changes in intensity, both up and down, that are difficult to predict are possible during the next couple of days," the Hurricane Center wrote.

  • Forecasters also noted that Beryl may degenerate into an open tropical wave by the time it reaches the Lesser Antilles, due to a more hostile environment with strong upper level winds that will tear its thunderstorms apart.

The threat: Regardless of its intensity, Beryl does not pose an immediate threat to any part of the U.S. However, forecasters are watching an area of disturbed weather off the coast of the Carolinas for possible development into a tropical storm during the next 72 hours.

  • If this were to take place, the storm would be named Chris, and strong winds along the coast, along with heavy rain, would be the main threats.
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