A new Tropical Storm- the fifth of the year- formed over the central Atlantic Ocean overnight. Named Erika, this system will need to be watched closely.
In the short term, confidence is high that Erika will continue strengthening as it tracks towards the west and northwest. By Wednesday night, Erika should be approaching the Virgin Islands. At this time, the official National Hurricane Center forecast has Erika as a strong tropical storm, but I would not be surprised to see it a minimal hurricane.
Beyond that, the forecast confidence for Erika nosedives, with a wide variety of possibilities. A track further south would take Erika over Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. The mountainous terrain in these areas would have a negative impact on Erika and likely weaken it. A more northern track would keep it over open water, but conditions may become more hostile to development and Erika could weaken or even dissipate.
The big concern is what happens towards this weekend. If Erika survives the mountains of Hispaniola and/or the less than ideal atmospheric conditions, it could begin approaching the Bahamas, where the water is warmer and strengthening could easily occur.
From there, the possibilities range from Erika curving north, either heading out to sea or into the Southeast US. Or, Erika could cross Florida and go into the Gulf of Mexico. A track even further south would take Erika into Cuba, which would have a similar disruptive effect on the storm as Hispaniola.
It is still very early in the game, but as I highlighted in my blog post for Syracuse.com over the weekend, the pattern is favorable for a storm to impact the United States, and everyone from Texas to New England should be watching and waiting to see what Erika does.
You can track the location of Erika on my other website, Grotonweather.com.