The Weather Authority, along with meteorologists across the Southeast, are closely watching Idalia as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.

Idalia continues to strengthen and organize as it moves near the western tip of Cuba early Tuesday morning. As this hurricane moves into the Gulf of Mexico, it is forecast to strengthen more before making landfall in Florida. Models are in better agreement that the landfall will occur over the Big Bend of Florida.

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) Monday night shows this system has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. Once over the Gulf of Mexico, Idalia will likely undergo a process known as rapid intensification.

When a tropical system undergoes rapid intensification, it means there is at least a 30-knot (35 mph) increase in the maximum sustained wind within 24 hours. With rising sea surface temperatures, recent tropical systems have undergone this same process. Last year, Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified into a major hurricane before slamming into the southwest coast of Florida.

What helps support the rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone:

So what causes a tropical system to rapidly intensify and in some cases right before landfall? Some of the factors that would cause this are very warm sea surface temperatures, high ocean heat content, lack of wind shear and high moisture content in the atmosphere. Ocean heat content describes the depth of the warm water throughout the Gulf. When the warm temperatures (in this case upper 80s) are at the sea surface but also are found in great depths of the Gulf, it can support rapid growth.

Soon-to-be hurricane Idalia will be moving in a favorable environment to support rapid intensification on Tuesday. First, the Gulf of Mexico is very warm with sea surface temperatures in the upper 80s and in some locations nearing 90 degrees. Tropical systems thrive over hot open water like this. As Idalia first enters the Gulf of Mexico, there will be weak wind shear (change in wind speed/direction with height) which allows systems to further intensify. Stronger wind shear will break down a tropical system.

So far this hurricane season there have been nine named storms in the Atlantic Basin. During a normal season, we see 14 named storms. Only one has been a major hurricane, Franklin, but this could change if Idalia does strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane. A major hurricane is defined by winds of 111 mph or greater.

Stay with the Weather Authority for the latest of Idalia and any other systems that develop this season.