- Today, Tropical Storm Ophelia (seen at left in this image from Wednesday) is expected to transition into the Atlantic's fourth 2011 hurricane. Tropical Storm Philippe (right) was expected to maintain its weaker strength. (NOAA)
Crusty old sea captains take note: There are two big storms bedeviling the ocean blue this week. Neither poses a threat to the United States at the moment, though.
The first, Tropical Storm Ophelia, is the more formidable. Creeping northwest from Puerto Rico at a sprinter's speed, the tempest is spinning winds up to 70 m.p.h. and is expected to break into hurricane strength sometime today or Friday. As you can see from this NASA picture, the storm has developed into the classic comma shape and could even sprout an eye in the coming hours.
Ophelia's western side is expected to come very close to but not actually touch Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center. The predicted track of Ophelia takes it on a broad swoop far east of the U.S. until it gains footing over Newfoundland. (See below for a tracking map.) But that's all right, they're used to rain up there:
(Google result for "Newfoundland weather")
The second cyclone, Tropical Storm Philippe, is sort of underachieving out in the middle of the Atlantic. The winds around Philippe are blowing near 45 m.p.h. and are not believed to get any faster in the next two days. And it's got a rough time coming, because it is "forecast to be blasted by 30 kt of northerly shear on the west side of a deep longwave trough," which "should induce some weakening," says the NHC.
The models are being weird about Philippe's future, making it an interesting storm to track. Here is the full discussion from the government's hurricaneheads:
"ODDLY ENOUGH...MANY OF THE INTENSITY MODELS EITHER SHOW STRENGTHENING TO A HURRICANE OR VERY LITTLE WEAKENING DURING THE FORECAST PERIOD...WHICH IS WHY THE OFFICIAL FORECAST INDICATES ONLY GRADUAL WEAKENING EVEN IN THE FACE OF SEEMINGLY HOSTILE UPPER-LEVEL WINDS. IF PHILIPPE CAN SURVIVE ITS ENVIRONMENT...WHICH SO FAR IT HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO...THEN IT MAY BE ABLE TO HOLD ON AS A TROPICAL CYCLONE WHEN UPPER-LEVEL WINDS RELAX A BIT BETWEEN 96 AND 120 HOURS."
And here is Ophelia's latest probability map. Note that the storm could roam around anywhere inside this cone: