Danielle strengthens into first Atlantic hurricane of the 2022 season

WEATHER NEWS: Danielle strengthens into first Atlantic hurricane of the 2022 season


Tropical storm Danielle reached hurricane strength late Friday morning over the open Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center has declared. The storm, which is not expected to threaten any land areas, is the first hurricane of what has been a quiet Atlantic season so far.

Danielle is also the latest first hurricane to form in the Atlantic since 2013, said Phil Klotzbach, a tropical weather researcher at Colorado State University.

Another oddity in a weird Atlantic season: The storm gained strength unusually far north — near 40 degrees latitude — where hurricanes are rare. But it was record-warm ocean waters there that fueled the storm.

Michael Lowery, hurricane specialist for Miami TV affiliate WPLG, tweeted that the sea surface temperature near Danielle topped 80 degrees for first time on record. Tropical storms and hurricanes require such warm water to intensify.

Much of the northwest Atlantic is substantially warmer than normal, reflecting the effects of human-caused climate change that has raised ocean temperatures around the world.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a moderate to strong marine heat wave underway in the area where Danielle has developed. Marine heat waves occur when ocean temperature are abnormally high for a long time and are associated with significant effects on marine ecosystems.

Danielle is among the farthest north and east hurricanes to form in the Atlantic, owing, in part, to this heat wave.

At 11 a.m. Eastern time, Danielle was centered 885 miles west of the Azores, nearly stalled. “The hurricane is forecast to meander over the open Atlantic during the next couple of days, then slowly turn toward the northeast early next week,” the Hurricane Center wrote.

The center projects the storm to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane by Sunday before weakening to Category 1 by the middle of next week.

The 2022 hurricane season has surprised forecasters for being abnormally quiet despite initial forecasts for a busy season. The Atlantic went without a named storm for nearly two months, from the beginning of July to the end of August. August passed without a named storm for the first time since 1997.

Did forecasts of an extra-busy hurricane season turn out dead wrong?

While warm ocean waters have favored storm formation, a combination of dry, stable air and hostile winds have generally suppressed development.

But since the start of September, the Atlantic has shown signs of waking up. In addition to Danielle, the Hurricane Center is monitoring a disturbance east of the Lesser Antilles, and gives it a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression or storm over the next five days.

This system bears watching: Most forecast models suggest that the disturbance will curl out to sea in several days, but a few suggest it could continue westward toward the Bahamas and perhaps the Southeastern United States.

One other disturbance just west of Africa is also being monitored, but the center has determined that it has only a 10 percent chance to develop.

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