Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

Tropical Storm Gaston strengthened over the North Atlantic early Wednesday, a day after becoming the seventh named storm of the 2022 hurricane season.

The storm was about 850 miles west of the Azores in the North Atlantic and posed no immediate threat to land, the National Hurricane Center said. As of 5 a.m. Eastern time, Gaston was moving northeast at about 16 miles per hour and had maximum sustained winds of 65 m.p.h.

Gaston could cause swells in the Azores later this week, which could generate life-threatening surf and rip-current conditions, the Hurricane Center said.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, had a relatively quiet start, with only three named storms before Sept. 1 and none during August, the first time that had happened since 1997. Storm activity picked up in early September with Danielle and Earl, which formed within a day of each other.

Gaston is one of two storms currently in the Atlantic; the other, Fiona, strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday after battering parts of the Caribbean.

In early August, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an updated forecast for the rest of the season, which still called for an above-normal level of tropical storm 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 named storms 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.

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.

Eduardo Medina and Chris Stanford contributed reporting.

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