Ophelia Strengthens Into a Hurricane Southwest of the Azores

Tropical Storm Ophelia strengthened into a hurricane southwest of the Azores on Wednesday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Hurricane Ophelia was located at latitude 30.0°N and longitude 35.7°W which put it about 745 miles (1195 km) southwest of the Azores.  Ophelia was moving toward the northeast at 3 m.p.h.  The maximum sustained wind speed was 85 m.p.h. (140 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 986 mb.

The circulation of Hurricane Ophelia became more circular and symmetrical on Wednesday.  A circular eye developed at the center of circulation.  Thunderstorms in the ring around the eye became taller.  Additional bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Hurricane Ophelia.  Thunderstorms in the core were producing upper level divergence which was pumping mass away to the east of the hurricane.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 25 miles (40 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 70 miles (110 km) from the center.

Hurricane Ophelia will be moving through an environment that could support further intensification on Thursday.  Ophelia will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 26.5°C.  Ophelia is in an area of weaker upper level winds.  It is north of the subtropical jet stream and it is south of the stronger westerly winds in the middle latitudes.  As a result the vertical wind shear is minimal.  The combination of warm water and little shear allowed Ophelia to intensify into a hurricane and it could strengthen further on Thursday.

Hurricane Ophelia is in an area of weak westerly winds which are steering the hurricane slowly toward the east.  An upper level trough will approach Ophelia from the west and the trough will start to pull the hurricane toward the northeast more quickly later this week.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Ophelia could approach the Azores in two or three days.