The first hurricane of the Atlantic tropical storm season has a name, and it is Bertha.
Hurricane Bertha formed early Monday morning in the distant Atlantic, about 845 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters said it was still too early to say whether or not Hurricane Bertha would affect land, or how long it would retain hurricane strength. Currently, its winds have been clocked at about 75 mph, a weak Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and the storm is expected to strengthen in the next couple of days.
The forecast, at this point, shows the storm bending toward Bermuda, possibly reaching there in about a week's time. In the meantime, the main impact of Hurricane Bertha will be on shipping.
National Hurricane Center
The first tropical storm of the Atlantic season, Arthur, brought punishing rains to parts of Central America June 1, right in time for the official start of the hurricane season. The peak of activity most years occurs in late summer.
The storm's formation follows an active period in the eastern Pacific Ocean, where three tropical storms formed within days last week.
The forecast from the government's Climate Prediction Center says it's likely that 2008 will be an active year for hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean. There's a good chance we'll see 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale). Average is 11 named storms including six hurricanes, two of them major storms.
Last season did not produce the predicted number of storms. There were more named storms but fewer hurricanes than predicted. Those hurricanes that did form intensified rapidly before landfall, and the first-ever record of back-to-back Category 5 landfalls came when Hurricanes Dean and Felix hit Central America. (The names Dean and Felix, along with Noel, a weaker but deadly 2007 Caribbean storm, have been retired.)
The last several months have seen a flurry of science related to global warming and hurricanes. A longtime proponent of the idea that warmer ocean temperatures will produce stronger storms, Kerry Emanuel, has called that hypothesis into doubt. But the government has said that warmer oceans will produce fewer, but stronger storms in the coming decades. The jury, it seems, is still out, as scientists study the complex forces that influence hurricane behavior.
This year, a lingering La Niña (cool pattern) in the Southern Pacific, warmth in the tropical Atlantic, and the strong-phase of a multidecadal storm activity cycle are expected to be driving forces behind an active storm year.
Tropical Storm Arthur formed quickly on May 31 off Belize and lost tropical storm strength in fewer than 24 hours, amd brought punishing rains of 10-15 inches to parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, including Mexico and Guatemala.
Hurricane Bertha after forming as a tropical storm July 3 in the far eastern Atlantic, Hurricane Bertha debuted as the Atlantic's first hurricane July 7.
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