Tropical Depression Four Develops East of the Lesser Antilles

Tropical Depression Four developed east of the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday night.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Tropical Depression Four was located at latitude 12.8°N and longitude 38.4°W which put it about 1545 (2485 km) east of the Lesser Antilles.  The depression was moving toward the west-northwest at 14 m.p.h. (22 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 30 m.p.h. (50 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 40 m.p.h. (65 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 1009 mb.

A larger area of thunderstorms formed and persisted on the western side of a tropical disturbance formerly designated as Invest 94L on Wednesday and the National Hurricane Center classified the system as Tropical Depression Four.  The distribution of thunderstorms is still asymmetrical.  Most of the stronger storms are developing in the western half of the circulation.  The thunderstorms in the western part of the circulation were beginning to generate upper level divergence.  There were few thunderstorms in the eastern half of the depression and the vertical structure of the circulation could be tilted to the west with height.

Tropical Depression Four will be moving through an environment that contains both positive and negative factors for intensification.  The depression will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 27°C.  So, there is sufficient energy in the upper ocean to support intensification.  An upper level ridge is producing easterly winds which are blowing toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds could be causing the circulation to tilt toward the west with height.  Moderate vertical wind shear could inhibit intensification.  Drier air is north of the tropical depression.  If the depression remains south of the drier air and if the vertical wind shear does not become too strong, then the depression could strengthen.  Alternatively, if the depression pulls in drier air and/or the vertical shear increases, then the depression could weaken back to a tropical wave.

The subtropical ridge over the Atlantic Ocean is steering Tropical Depression Four toward the west-northwest.  A general west-northwesterly motion is expected for the next several days.  The actual track will also have a significant effect on the future intensity of Tropical Depression Four. If the depression moves on a more southerly track, it will stay south of the drier air and it would have a greater opportunity to intensify.  If the depression moves farther to the north, it will move into the drier air and will be more likely to weaken,