After an unusually quiet start to the Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Danielle formed on Thursday, the first named storm in nearly two months.
As of 11 p.m. Eastern time, the storm was about 925 miles west of the Azores in the North Atlantic, and was slowly drifting east at 2 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm had maximum sustained winds near 65 m.p.h. but did not present an immediate threat to land.
The storm was strengthening quickly throughout the evening. On Friday, it was expected to become the first hurricane of the season, the hurricane center said on Thursday night.
Forecasters were also watching two other disturbances in the Atlantic: One that was several hundred miles east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, and one near the Cabo Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa.
Meteorologists expect the system in the Caribbean to strengthen into a tropical depression, which has maximum sustained winds of 38 m.p.h. or less, over the next five days. A tropical storm has winds of 39 to 73 m.p.h., and hurricanes have winds of at least 74 m.p.h.
Read More About Extreme Weather
Danielle’s formation comes after a relatively quiet start to the Atlantic hurricane season, with just three other named storms. Alex, which formed in early June, caused flooding across South Florida and killed at least three people in Cuba. Bonnie tore across Central America as a tropical storm in early July and briefly became the first major hurricane of the Pacific hurricane season. Colin, the most recent named storm, formed over the Fourth of July weekend, drenching the Carolinas.
There were no named storms in the Atlantic during August, the first time that has happened since 1997. After Danielle, the next tropical storms will be named Earl and Fiona.
In early August, scientists at NOAA issued an updated forecast for the rest of the Atlantic hurricane season, which called for an above-normal level of activity. In it, they predicted the season — which runs through Nov. 30 — could see 14 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 turning into hurricanes that sustain winds of at least 74 miles per hour. Three to five of those could strengthen into what NOAA calls major hurricanes — Category 3 or stronger — with winds of at least 111 m.p.h.
Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020. For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that has happened only one other time, in 2005.
Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, said this week that hurricanes and tropical storms need three main things to develop: warm water, vertical wind shear and a moist unstable atmosphere.
So far this year, the atmosphere has had dry air instead, which has contributed to a slower season, but Mr. Kottlowski warns that there is still plenty of time for severe weather to form.
“Over the last seven years, we’ve had a very favorable pattern, but that hasn’t been the case this year,” said Mr. Kottlowski, who is also lead hurricane forecaster. “It’s still very highly possible that we will see the potential of strong hurricanes to form in the latter part of September to October.”
The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide during the past four decades. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
Maria Torres, a National Hurricane Center spokeswoman, said residents should not lower their guards, even though there have been few major storms so far this year.
“Be vigilant, as things can change, and the season is not over yet,” she said this week. One storm is enough to make up a season, she added, citing Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida and Louisiana in 1992, an otherwise quiet year. “We still have many months to go in hurricane season.”
Jenny Gross, Christine Hauser, McKenna Oxenden, Chris Stanford, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Johnny Diaz contributed reporting.