Subtropical Storm Ernesto struggles to life as fifth storm of season


Subtropical Storm Ernesto formed Wednesday, struggling to spin up in the Central Atlantic where it is no threat to the U.S.

The system, which could experience minimal strengthening while it remains over warm water, is expected to top out with 50 mph winds in the next two days before merging with a larger low pressure system.

A subtropical storm has weaker thunderstorms than a tropical storm, and is more spread out with winds far removed from the center.

RELATED: What’s an invest and why do they keep saying tropical cyclone?

Ernesto’s 40 mph winds extend out 165 miles from the center. The storm formed about 695 miles southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland. Storms that form far out to sea are often referred to as “fish storms.”

“They tend to be less than hurricane strength, but can still be significant to shipping interests,” said Erick Blake, a National Hurricane Center specialist, about subtropical storms in the deep Atlantic. “A subtropical storm with strong winds can still do some damage.”

Ernesto is the fourth of the five named storms this season to spend part of its life as a subtropical storm.

That’s significant because the record number of subtropical storms to form during a single season is five, which occurred in 1969. Records go back to the late 1960s when satellites were first used to track storms.

BOOKMARK: The Palm Beach Post’s Storm Tracking Map

The only storm this season not to have subtropical characteristics at some point was Hurricane Chris, which formed July 6 far off the coast of the Carolinas and grew to a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds.

Other storms this season included Alberto, Beryl, and Debby. Beryl was a Category 1 hurricane.

The federal Climate Prediction Center reduced its storm forecast last week, calling for a below average season with an El Niño expected to form in the fall or winter.

The updated forecast predicts nine to 13 named storms, including four that had formed previous to Ernesto. Also, four to seven hurricanes are expected with up to two major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“The season is not dead,” said Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last week. “Storms can pop up quickly and we do expect more storms.”

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