Meet Alberto, the first named storm of the not-quite-technically-here 2018 hurricane season. Alberto is a bit of an oddball. If you’re from the east coast, you’re probably familiar with the three main types of bad weather that arrive here between June and October—tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes—and with the more interestingly named nor’easters that hit my home in New England during the colder months. But Alberto is none of these—it’s a subtropical storm. Weird guy, that Alberto.
But what exactly is a subtropical storm? As Brian Kahn explains,
It borrows some of the characteristics of those tropical systems as well as extratropical storms, which are your nor’easters and what Sandy technically was when it made landfall in New York. Those storms tend to have a cold core and a bigger, less symmetrical wind field than hurricanes.
Someone with little meteorological knowledge (like me) admittedly won’t find much of interest in factors like a “cold core” or “symmetrical wind field.” But these distinctions have serious consequences of their own, and there’s one big reason why storm-weary East Coasters shouldn’t be fooled by the somewhat underwhelming “subtropical” category:
“Thanks to the upper winds, the strongest winds in Alberto are not located around the center…rather they are well removed from it,” Dennis Feltgen, a public affairs officer and meteorologist at NHC, told Earther.
Those peripheral winds—already exceeding 40mph—could slam the Caribbean and Gulf Coasts well before Alberto makes its expected landfall on Monday. The National Hurricane Center has already warned of a possible tropical storm surge watch taking effect in Florida by later tonight from this cold-cored subtropical oddball. So while it might not matter if you know the difference between all these scary summer storms or not, it always helps to pay attention. Especially when things get weird.