Tropical storm Isaias has formed in the southern Caribbean overnight and is seen as the first storm of the 2020 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season with the potential to pose a hurricane threat to Florida and U.S. East Coast.
Tropical storm Isaias is set for a journey through the Caribbean islands, via the Domincan Republic and Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and then will approach Florida, with the forecast currently suggesting it will reach that far by Saturday evening local time.
Given the land interaction to come and the fact meteorological conditions are viewed as far from perfect for rapid intensification at the moment, there is significant uncertainty over how strong a tropical storm or perhaps hurricane Isaias will be able to become when it nears the Florida coastline.
Currently, tropical storm Isaias maximum sustained winds are around 60 mph with higher gusts, but the interaction with Hispaniola that is ahead is forecast to cause fluctuation and potential weakening, meaning it is uncertain how it will affect the future potential for Isaias to intensify.
Sea surface temperatures are certainly warm enough for intensification of Isaias into a hurricane once it emerges closer to the Bahamas and begins to travel towards Florida, but wind shear and other environmental conditions on its path could also hinder its ability to organise and intensify on the way.
That remains quite uncertain though and some forecasters suggest a hurricane strength Isaias is a relatively likely scenario, once it pulls close to Florida, making this another storm to watch for insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) interests.
The NHC says that some re-strengthening is forecast by Friday, once storm Isaias pulls clear of Hispaniola.
Most forecast models show a close brush with Miami as a strong tropical storm or low category hurricane for Isaias, with the storm then set to parallel the coast up to the Carolinas.
It brings the possibility of multiple landfalls on that track of course, or a slow track along the coast with storm force winds impacting a very wide area.
But it really all comes down to the potential for intensification for the insurance, reinsurance and ILS sectors, as should Isaias be able to fuel its winds around the Bahamas and offshore of Florida there is an outside chance that it could be a Florida hurricane landfall that the industry is watching this weekend.
Again, there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead in the forecast over the coming days, but it is certain that Isaias is the first potential hurricane threat for Florida and many U.S. east coast regions of the 2020 season.
The high levels of wind shear Isaias will encounter after Hispaniola could hinder development significantly, or even tear the storm apart. But Isaias could also successfully make it through after which there is a chance of intensification nearer the U.S. coast.
There is plenty of warm water along the U.S. eastern seaboard for Isaias to become a hurricane, if it still has the structure and potential by the time it gets there.
Guidance in the forecasts is pointing towards a weaker storm outcome, with Isaias failing to gain the circulation needed for more rapid intensification. But as ever there is great uncertainty this far out and so the storm is another that requires close attention by reinsurance and ILS interests over the coming days.
You can see a forecast intensity model run from TropicalTidbits.com below:
Track the 2020 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season on our dedicated page and we’ll update you as new information emerges and any meaningful storms form.