For those of you who are ready to call the 2005 hurricane season closed, don't be so quick to put away your tracking charts. Tropical Storm Epsilon defied the models yesterday and drifted to the southeast despite a forecast for northeast motion. While northeast motion has finally begun, we are looking at a different forecast situation. This has brought Epsilon over warm waters, reported to be 76-77 degrees Fahrenheit by buoys in the area. Epsilon has used this warmer water to strengthen to near hurricane strength. The 11AM EST advisory lists Epsilon with sustained winds of 65 mph and a central pressure of 994 mb. Any additional burst of convection would likely push Epsilon up to hurricane strength. The center of circulation is now located 780 miles east of Bermuda and is moving to the northeast near 10 mph.
Infrared and visible satellite imagery both show Epsilon to be again redeveloping ragged eye. The storm's banding remains broken on one side, which is causing satellite measurements to underestimate the true intensity of the storm. However, the large banding features and building upper level cyclone both argue that Epsilon is a stronger storm than the estimates provide. The redevelopment of the eye and increasing outflow both mean that Epsilon could briefly reach hurricane strength later today. After yesterday's unexpected southward drift, the computer models are now diverging regarding Epsilon's track. However, in any case put forth by the models, the center of circulation should be over cooler waters and weakening will begin.
If Epsilon does become a hurricane later today, it would not be the first December hurricane on record. In 1887, a weak hurricane traversed the Atlantic on December 7-12. In 1925 an unnamed hurricane formed on December 1 from an existing tropical storm and struck Florida. Ironically, it was only the second tropical storm of the entire year. From December 30, 1954, to January 6, 1955, Hurricane Alice 2 (yes, 2, it was the second Alice that season) crossed the Caribbean. December 12-24, 1984 saw Hurricane Lili cruise through the Atlantic, and in 1998, Hurricane Nicole hung around for part of the the first day of December.