Part of my daily routine from June to late October is to check the National Hurricane Center's (NHC)Tropical Weather Outlook. You can too at www.nhc.noaa.gov/. Earlier today, it showed the curious picture above. An area of cloudiness is circled in the far eastern Gulf with the symbol "0%". What exactly does that mean?
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the NHC forecasters at a gathering of other broadcast meteorologists. It was June 2010 and the NHC forecasters announced plans to begin quantifying the chances that a swirl of clouds might develop into a tropical cyclone. At the meeting, I raised the question of why they would assign 0% chance to any cloud mass. Their response was that kind of information was just as important as any non-zero chance. The reasoning was even though a swirl might look like it could develop, the forecaster might not find accompanying atmospheric conditions. It was to be a way of communicating that the forecaster believed that nothing would happen.
Of course, just because a swirl is assigned a 0% chance of developing doesn't mean it will stay that way. Earlier this year, the system that later became Tropical Storm Beryl began as a swirl of clouds off the Florida coast that had been given a 0% chance of development.
As it turns out, today's swirl is no longer being tracked by the hurricane center. But of course, we have a long season yet to go...