Storm Danielle has officially become a Category-1 hurricane, the first of the year in the Atlantic.
The system became a tropical storm on Thursday, making it the fourth named storm of the season. On Friday, maximum wind speeds strengthened to nearly 75 miles per hour (120 kilometres per hour), officially hurricane status.
Winds are expected to get stronger over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The storm is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between New Jersey and Portugal, and does not pose a threat to any coastal areas.
Danielle is a late addition to what has been an abnormally quiet hurricane season. Usually, the first hurricane in the Atlantic has formed by mid-August.
This year was the first since 1982, when only three tropical storms had formed by the end of August, and the first since 1997 when no tropical storms formed in August.
Hurricane Danielle may be the start of an upswing, however. NHC is tracking two other storm systems in the mid-Atlantic with the potential to form at least tropical depressions in the next few days.
One, near the eastern Caribbean, has a 70 per cent chance of reaching become a tropical depression in the next five days. Another, closer to the west coast of Africa, has a 10 per cent chance.
If either of those systems were to reach tropical-storm-force winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph), they would become Tropical Storm Earl.
Peak hurricane season usually comes in mid-September.
The slow hurricane season has come despite forecasts of an “above-normal” season. As late as early August, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had forecast a strong season, with up to 20 named storms and 10 hurricanes.
Between three and five of those would be “major hurricanes”, meaning Category 3 or higher.
As the climate crisis grows, hurricanes may not get more frequent – but they are likely to grow stronger.
Over the past four decades, a higher percentage of storms have reached Category 3 or higher, according to a United Nations climate science panel, meaning they have a much higher potential for destruction when they make landfall.