A tropical depression in the far-eastern Atlantic is gaining strength and could become the basin's second tropical storm later today, the National Hurricane Center reports.
It would be named Tropical Storm Bertha.
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 tropical depression forecasters are watching has sustained winds of about 35 mph and is about 200 miles south-southeast of the Cape Verde Islands.
The storm's formation follows an active period in the eastern Pacific Ocean, where three tropical storms formed within about a week. The two remaining tropical storms there, Boris and Douglas, are expected to degrade into tropical depressions within hours. Boris was the first hurricane of the season.
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.
Bertha: A tropical depression could form into Tropical Storm Bertha July 3 or July 4, forecasters say.
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