A tropical disturbance is swirling about 800 miles south-southwest of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Environmental conditions are forecast to be conducive for further development, and a tropical depression is likely to form during the next day or so while the system moves northwestward at around 10 mph,” forecasters with the Miami-based center said Friday evening.
In the next 48 hours, there is an 80% chance that this tropical disturbance may turn into a tropical cyclone as the system moves northwest at about 10 mph.
If it does become a named storm, it would be the earliest one the center has seen on record for the past 50 years in the Eastern Pacific, according to National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.
The Eastern North Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 to Nov. 30, while the Central North Pacific and Atlantic hurricane seasons run from June 1 to Nov. 30.
While the Eastern Pacific hurricane season starts two weeks earlier than the Central Pacific, which includes Hawaii, it is unusual to see a disturbance this early, according to Feltgen.
“We’re waiting to see what we have,” he said. “We’ve got an 80% chance that it will develop into a tropical cyclone, but there’s always a chance that it won’t. The good news is that there’s no threat to land, only to boating and shipping interests out there.”
Forecasters noticed that shower and thunderstorm activity in the disturbance decreased slightly today, but environmental conditions favorable for additional development provide a window of opportunity.
“It’s still pretty well organized,” said Feltgen. “It’s got a chance through the next 24, maybe 48 hours, tops.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Vanessa Almanza said while the alert is still for a tropical disturbance, it is not entirely unusual.
“Tropical depressions can happen any time of year,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any indication of what this one disturbance says about the entire outlook [for hurricane season].”
Last year, forecasters predicted there would be five to eight tropical cyclones during the Central Pacific hurricane season, and there were five, which is near the season average.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is scheduled to issue its hurricane outlook for the Central Pacific on May 20, followed by the outlook for the Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific on May 21.