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Developing Hurricane Ophelia tracks toward Spain, Ireland – A N I T H
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Developing Hurricane Ophelia tracks toward Spain, Ireland

Developing Hurricane Ophelia tracks toward Spain, Ireland


Well, this is weird. 

Tropical Storm Ophelia is on the verge of becoming a hurricane in the northeastern Atlantic. It’s far from land, but it’s noteworthy for its location, intensity, and direction of movement. 

The storm formed well outside what meteorologists refer as the “main development region,” where most hurricanes form in the Atlantic. In fact, Ophelia could set records for the strongest storm to form in its location so far outside the tropics.

Should Ophelia become a hurricane later on Wednesday, as expected, it would be the 10th straight North Atlantic tropical cyclone to reach hurricane strength, something that hasn’t happened since at least 1893 (though lack of satellite measurements until the latter half of the twentieth century means there’s some uncertainty here). 

Computer model projection showing a strong low pressure area associated with what is now T.S. Ophelia striking western Ireland.

The storm is far enough to the north to be captured by the midlatitude westerlies — fast-moving winds at high altitude, blowing generally from west to east. This means the storm isn’t moving from east to west, like most Atlantic hurricanes. Instead, Hurricane Ophelia’s track will bring it on an unusual journey: near or just southeast of the Azores Islands, to the west of Portugal and Spain, and then northward into Ireland and the U.K. by early next week.

Track forecast for Ophelia.

Track forecast for Ophelia.

By the time Ophelia reaches northern Europe, it may no longer be a tropical system, instead possibly transitioning into a powerful extratropical low pressure area. The storm may still be capable of producing powerful winds, on the order of 60 to 80 miles per hour, when it makes its closest approach to Ireland and the U.K., which it’s forecast to do on Monday. 

The non-tropical phase of Ophelia may feature a larger, more intense storm that could bring a range of hazards to Ireland and the U.K., from damaging winds to punishing waves.

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Anith Gopal
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