NEW YORK, June 22 (Reuters) - A tropical wave in the Caribbean Sea could form into the season’s first named Atlantic basin storm late this week and possibly threaten the oil- and natural gas-rich Gulf of Mexico next week, forecaster Planalytics said Tuesday.
“I remain feeling quite confident that this season’s first named storm will form over the western Caribbean late this week,” said Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist with Planalytics in Berwyn, Pennsylvania in a research note.
If so, the storm will be named Alex.
“(It) will go on to represent a serious threat to the Gulf during the first half of next week, particularly to clean-up operations to the ever increasing oil slick across the northern Gulf,” he stated.
However, it was too early to determine if the storm would hit offshore oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico or pose a threat to efforts to clean up the oil spill, Rouiller said.
Natural gas and oil markets closely watch storms tracking the region for signs of potential disruptions to offshore operations and refineries along the coast.
The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season has been forecast to be the worst since 2005 when a record four major hurricanes hit the United States, severely disrupting U.S. oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf and along the coast.
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita shut some regional refineries for months, resulting in about 142 million barrels of oil product loss.
“I expect this complex of thunderstorms to gradually organize over the next 24-48 hours as it moves on a west-northwesterly track toward the Yucatan Straits,” Rouiller projected.
The warm temperatures of the water, coupled with low wind shear, create favorable conditions for Tropical Storm Alex to form, Rouiller said.
“At this point, tracking models indicate a very wide potential strike zone across the western two-thirds of the Gulf from Gulf Port, Mississippi to Brownsville, Texas,” he added. (Reporting by Jeanine Prezioso; Editing by John Picinich) (firstname.lastname@example.org; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))