Tropical Depression 09C Forms Near Equator

Sufficient evidence of a surface center of circulation within a broad area of thunderstorms near the Equator prompted the Central Pacific Hurricane Center to classify the system as Tropical Depression 09C.  At 10:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday the center of Tropical Depression 09C (TD09C) was located at latitude 2.8°N and longitude 177.8°W which put it about 1850 miles (2975 km) southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii.  TD09C was moving toward the west-northwest at 8 m.p.h.  The maximum sustained wind speed was 35 m.p.h. (55 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 45 m.p.h. (75 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 1001 mb.

The circulation of Tropical Depression 09C is not particularly well organized and there may be multiple small centers inside the larger circulation of the system.  One small center of circulation is near a cluster of thunderstorms in the northern half of the circulation and that center is currently being designated as the center of TD09C.  Another circulation center is near latitude 1.0°N and longitude 174.6°W, but there are no thunderstorms near that center.  The main area of thunderstorms is north of the official center of circulation.  There are a few partial spiral bands northeast of the center of the depression.

The environment around TD09C is only marginal for intensification.  The depression is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperatures are near 30°C.  So, there is plenty of energy in the upper ocean to support intensification.  However, a strong upper level ridge east of TD09C is generating strong southeasterly winds over the top of the depression.  The strong vertical wind shear is contributing to the poor organization of TD09C.  The wind shear is likely to inhibit intensification during the next several days.

A subtropical ridge east of TD09C is expected to steer the depression slowly toward the west-northwest during the next few days.  The actual track of TD09C could be somewhat erratic, especially if some of the small centers of circulation dissipate and additional centers form in clusters of thunderstorms that develop.  On its anticipated track Tropical Depression 09C could approach Tarawa in about three days and it could be approaching the Marshall Islands this weekend.

The most remarkable thing about Tropical Depression 09C is that is developed so close to the Equator.  Conventional wisdom often says that tropical cyclones cannot form near the Equator because the Coriolis effect is too small.  However, although tropical cyclones are rare near the Equator, Tropical Depression 09C is another example that they can form in that region.