(WEATHER.COM) – Hurricane Beryl has rapidly intensified to become the first hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season well east of the Lesser Antilles, going from a tropical depression to hurricane in less than 24 hours.
This tiny hurricane is currently located over 1,100 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands, moving west.
Beryl was upgraded to a hurricane based on microwave and infrared satellite imagery showing a “pinhole eye” had developed.
Its tropical storm-force winds extend only up to about 35 miles from its center.
Tropical cyclones as tiny as Beryl are prone to intensify faster than forecast.
Given barely enough ocean heat content (sea-surface temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit), low wind shear, and its location south of a plume of sinking, dry air known as the Saharan air layer, Beryl intensified quickly from a tropical depression at 11 a.m. EDT Thursday to a Category 1 hurricane just 18 hours later.
According to the National Hurricane Center, these favorable conditions may remain in place through early Saturday, and Beryl could gain even more intensity.
However, upper-level winds will become hostile before Beryl approaches the Lesser Antilles this weekend.
These shearing winds should weaken this system as it draws closer to the Lesser Antilles.
Dry air is also plentiful ahead of Beryl and may also play some weakening role.
While allowing Beryl to rapidly strengthen, its small size also makes it more fragile compared to larger systems. This should make Beryl’s eventual weakening more rapid.
The question is how fast will that occur.
There is some chance Beryl may still be a tropical storm by the time it reaches the Lesser Antilles late Sunday into Monday. However, there’s also a chance tiny Beryl may be ripped apart by the aforementioned combo of wind shear and dry air.
Even if the system degenerates into a tropical wave, an uptick in shower activity, including some locally heavy rain, and gusty winds are expected in the Lesser Antilles late Sunday into Monday.
Beryl First Hurricane of the Atlantic Season
* In less than a day, Beryl went from an area of interest to the first hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.
* This tiny hurricane may strengthen a tad more into early Saturday.
* It will then encounter wind shear this weekend, causing it to weaken rapidly.
* Beryl should reach the Lesser Antilles by late Sunday or Monday.