Tropical storm Fred was named late on Tuesday night, as the low pressure system was deemed to have attained the necessary tropical characteristics according to NOAA, becoming the sixth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with a forecast taking it towards Florida.
Potential tropical cyclone six as it’s currently known, but soon to be tropical storm Fred is now forecast for a long track across Caribbean islands where higher elevations will affect its ability to intensify.
Also threatening tropical storm Fred’s ability to intensify into a hurricane Fred are the twin effects of dry air and strong upper-level wind shear, both of which will be hindering intensification over the coming days.
Despite this, once named, tropical storm Fred is forecast to track towards the Florida Peninsula and is given a chance of achieving hurricane strength winds, with the greatest chances of reaching hurricane status likely to occur once the storm passes Cuba.
Currently, the possible cyclone has sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts and is tracking west-north-west at a relatively speedy 17 mph.
A hurricane hunter plane passed through the storm recently and recorded 45 mph winds with some evidence of circulation, but not enough to name the storm Fred yet. NOAA said that it is likely to become tropical storm Fred later today or tonight though.
With mountainous Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as Cuba in forecast path of tropical storm Fred, it’s very uncertain whether the storm will be able to gain much strength and it could be that as the cyclone, or Fred, nears the Florida straits it is still a relatively weak tropical storm.
The forecast suggests that future storm Fred may be degraded back to a depression over Hispaniola, while the models suggest it will recover to tropical storm strength once it moves clear.
But the exact path taken by the storm, as well as just how much shear will inhibit its development, could be critical in how strong it can become later this week, or whether it fizzles out somewhat and struggles to sustain its circulation.
Further ahead, how the storm, or Fred as it’s expected to be, moves across the straits and towards Florida may also be critical for the storms ability to intensify.
Waters in the straits of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico remain plenty warm enough for intensification, but strong wind shear and dry air will be hindering factors, according to the forecasts.
Which means the longer the storm remains over the warmer waters the more chance it will have of intensifying into a hurricane, shear and dry air allowing. So again the exact path taken by Fred and also its forward speed at that stage of its life will be important to watch.
Should Fred track further to the west it may also have a chance of moving up the west of the Florida Peninsula over the warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico, in which case, at the least, west Florida would experience tropical storm conditions for some hours or possibly days, depending on forward speed, while a Gulf Coast landfall could become a factor.
Right now, the storm does not appear too much of an insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) market threat, but things can change as it tracks forwards so its progress does deserve watching, especially as its future intensity remains uncertain at this time.
Currently, the majority of models are in agreement that Fred will approach southern Florida as a mid to strong tropical storm, with some model outliers suggesting a chance of hurricane status after storm Fred passes Cuba.
You can see some modelled intensity guidance in the graphic below from Tropical Tidbits, which shows most of the models expect a strengthening storm as it passes Cuba and heads for Florida or the Gulf.
Also below are some additional forecast model images, again from Tropical Tidbits, which show a general agreement that Florida is in the cone for tropical storm Fred, while intensity remains the less certain aspect of the forecast right now.
While there is considerable uncertainty over tropical storm Fred’s chances of becoming a hurricane threat to Florida, it is a storm worth watching over the coming days.
Insurance, reinsurance and ILS market interests can keep track of it over on our 2021 Atlantic hurricane season page and we’ll update you should a more significant threat develop.