MIAMI — Danny is growing up — from a disturbance in a remote patch of the mid-Atlantic Ocean to, as of about 5 p.m. Tuesday, a tropical storm.
Could it become a hurricane next?
The U.S. National Hurricane Center expects that to happen Thursday. By Sunday, then-Hurricane Danny could be a Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds, according to the center.
It’s still too early to tell, though, if Danny will have any impact on the United States and, if so, where or when.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Tropical Storm Danny was centered about 1,600 miles off the Windward Islands — very far from any patch of land — as it moved west at a 12 mph. The Hurricane Center expects the storm, which was packing 40 mph sustained winds, will continue in this direction until turning more west-northwest on Wednesday.
The development follows an unusually quiet August, raising the prospect of no named hurricanes this year in Atlantic.
This year’s El Niño could rival the one of 18 years ago, which would mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes as a result of increased upper level winds that prevent them from developing. In fact, officials are predicting a calm 2015 hurricane season in the U.S.
By Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service was calling the wave that originated off the African coast a Tropical Depression Four, charging at 13 mph with winds of 35 mph several hundred miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands.
The National Hurricane Center gave the storm a 90% chance of forming a tropical depression.
Forecast models have the storm barreling westward this week towards the Windward/Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Hurricane Arthur, a Category 2 storm, was the last hurricane to make landfall in the United States, when it came ashore last July between Cape Lookout and Beaufort in Emerald Island, North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said.
Though forecasters are calling for a below average storm season in the Atlantic, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said storms in the region can have a strong impact.
Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida and south-central Louisiana in August 1992 with 175-mph winds, wiping out entire communities, killing 23 people and causing more than $25 billion in damage.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center, which has updated its 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, there is a 90% chance of a below-normal hurricane season and a lower chance of expected storm activity in the United States this year.
This means that of the 6 to 10 named storms for this season, 1 to 4 storms are likely to become hurricanes in 2015.
And there’s an even smaller chance that one of these storms will transform into a major hurricane. The National Hurricane Center calls any Category 3 or higher storm a major hurricane.
The naturally occurring climate cycle known as El Niño has strengthened, causing several factors that prevent hurricanes from forming, such as increased wind shears, strong winds that travel in a vertical direction and enhanced sinking motion across the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
Also, the Atlantic Ocean has had much cooler temperatures, which decreases the chances of major storm activity.
Since 1995, the United States has been in a high hurricane activity area, which typically lasts around 25 years. But for almost a decade, the country hasn’t seen a hurricane greater than a Category 3 storm, putting it in a nine-year hurricane “drought.”
The United States has indeed seen some big storms in the past few years though. In 2012, hurricane-turned-cyclone Superstorm Sandy, ravaged the Northeast with damaging flooding and powerful winds.
But this has been the longest stretch of time to pass without a major hurricane hitting the United States since reliable record keeping began in 1850, a 2015 NASA study said.