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Atlantic tropical wave may pose next threat to Caribbean, North America

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A new tropical threat may loom for the Caribbean and North America in the not-too-distant future, while eight more weeks remain in the Atlantic hurricane season.

A tropical wave that recently moved off the coast of Africa bears watching for development when the system is forecast to approach the Caribbean Sea next week. Any new system would follow Karl and Lisa over the Atlantic.

The Atlantic hurricane season will continue until the end of November.

"During the summer and autumn, 40 to 60 tropical waves move westward from Africa and cross the Atlantic Ocean," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

These tropical waves or disturbances are clusters of showers and thunderstorms that lack significant organization.

Upon favorable atmospheric conditions and warm water, these waves can begin to spin and strengthen into a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane over time.

Only one-in-four to one-in-five tropical waves reach tropical depression status. However, the majority of major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) originate from tropical waves.

"Because the tropical wave [near Africa] is so far south to begin with, it is unlikely to curve northward prior to impacting land next week," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno, adding that this system could be more of a concern for the Caribbean initially. Then, it could pose a threat North or Central America later on.

"We expect the wave to pass over the Windward Islands during Wednesday or Thursday of next week," Kottlowski said.

Large land areas surrounding the Caribbean, such as South America, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba have been a deterrent for explosive development of tropical systems in the past.

"Strong west to east winds above the sea surface could also inhibit development, once in the Caribbean," Kottlowski said.

If this system avoids the large land areas and disruptive winds weaken, strengthening could occur.

People living in or venturing to the Caribbean next week should monitor the situation.

It is too early to say for sure if the storm will indeed develop into a tropical storm or hurricane and whether the system will be a Central America, Gulf of Mexico or United States east coast concern.

The next name on the list of Atlantic hurricanes for this season is Matthew.

Hurricanes that have originated from tropical waves and developed in the Caribbean during October include Hazel (1954), Gladys (1968) and Mitch (1998).