Hurricane Ophelia Moves Closer to the Azores

Hurricane Ophelia moved closer to the Azores on Friday.  At 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Ophelia was located at latitude 32.3°N and longitude 31.8°W which put it about 480 miles (770 km) southwest of the Azores.  Ophelia was moving toward the east-northeast at 13 m.p.h. (20 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 120 m.p.h. (195 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 971 mb.

Despite moving over slightly cooler water, Hurricane Ophelia maintained its structure and intensity on Friday.  There was a small circular eye at the center of circulation, although there appeared to be a break on the northwest side of the ring of thunderstorms around the eye.  Thunderstorms in the core of Ophelia were generating upper level divergence which was pumping away mass.  Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of Hurricane Ophelia.  The stronger rainbands were in the eastern half of the circulation.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 25 miles (40 km) from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 100 miles (160 km) from the center.

Hurricane Ophelia will move through an environment that is capable of supporting a strong cyclone.  Ophelia will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 25°C.  Normally, that water would be too cool to support a strong hurricane.  However, the temperature in the upper levels of the atmosphere is also cool and that is keeping the atmosphere unstable enough to allow for thunderstorms to develop.  The speed of the winds in Hurricane Ophelia is likely to decrease gradually during the next several days.

When Hurricane Ophelia moves farther north, it will move into a cooler environment with stronger westerly winds in the upper levels.  A cooler environment with more vertical wind shear will cause the structure of Hurricane Ophelia change into the structure of an extratropical cyclone.  The area of stronger winds will expand and the cyclone will become much larger.

Hurricane Ophelia is being steered toward the east-northeast by westerly winds in the middle levels.  A trough will approach Hurricane Ophelia from the west.  Southwesterly winds ahead of the trough will carry Ophelia more toward the north in about 36 hours.  On its anticipated track the center of Hurricane Ophelia will move south of the Azores on Saturday.  Ophelia could bring gusty winds and rain to the Azores when it moves by those islands.  The strong extratropical cyclone that evolves from Hurricane Ophelia could approach Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday.  That cyclone could bring very strong winds and heavy rain to that region.