The vigorous African tropical wave in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean has organized itself enough to be classified as a Tropical Depression, marking the 5th to form in the 2012 Atlantic basin season.
The system is currently centered at 12.6N, 50.6W (still a long ways from the Lesser Antilles); has maximum sustained winds of 35mph; and is moving WNW at 18mph (a relatively fast speed for tropical systems).
Figure 1. IR image over the Central Atlantic. Tropical Depression 5 can be identified by the mass of clouds just north of 10N, 50W. The next African tropical wave can be seen east of 40W, between 5 and 10N. The visual appearance of the depression will acquire a more typical cyclonic feature as it continues to organize and strengthen.
TD5 is expected to strengthen slowly over the course of the next week, attaining Tropical Storm strength by tomorrow morning and possibly Hurricane strength by Monday evening. It is projected to pass over the central Lesser Antilles mid-day Friday and stay well south of Puerto Rico and Hispanola over the weekend before possibly passing just south of Jamaica Monday. After that, the storm’s path is anyone’s guess.
Dry air to the storms north and somewhat higher wind shear should prevent the storm from quickly gaining strength during the next few days. After that, intensification is anticipated to occur while the storm is over warm Caribbean waters.