The Atlantic hurricane season has so far been extremely quiet, the first year in four decades with only three tropical storms to form by the end of August.
But two storm systems currently brewing in the Atlantic could kick off a more active part of the year as peak hurricane season approaches in September.
The first storm system is a few hundred miles east of Barbados in the mid-Atlantic, moving slowly towards North America. The US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) on Tuesday gave the storm an 80 per cent chance of forming a cyclone in the next five days.
That means it’s likely to at least form a tropical depression - a storm with winds of 38 miles per hour (61 kilometres per hour) or less. If winds quicken, the storm will officially be named Tropical Storm Danielle.
The second system is along the west coast of Senegal in Africa. That storm has a 40 per cent chance of forming a cyclone in the next five days, though NHC says that by late in the week it will hit cooler waters and further development is unlikely.
This year is the first time since the early 1980s that only three tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic by this point in August. In 1982, only six tropical storms formed in total all year, with two reaching hurricane-strength winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or above.
If neither of the two systems develops into a cyclone this week, it would be the first year since 1997 that no tropical storms formed in August. That has happened only twice since 1960 - in 1961 and 1997.
This year may prove to be a sleeping giant, however. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has maintained its forecast for an active hurricane season, with up to 20 named storms — including up to 10 hurricanes.
Between three and five of those storms were predicted to be major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher, with wind speeds of 111 mph (179 kph) or more.
Hurricane season runs from June through November with peak activity between late August and early October.
The hurricane season was supposed to be stronger in part due to the ongoing La Niña phenomenon. But during much of the summer, dry air and heavy winds killed off a lot of storm potential, Bloomberg reported.
The latest assessment from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that while the climate crisis may not cause more hurricanes, it is likely to make them stronger.
In the past four decades, the percentage of hurricanes reaching the more destructive Category 3 or higher has increased, the IPCC said.
The growing threat of hurricanes is another consequence of fossil fuel-driven global heating. NOAA has said that when it comes to hurricanes, heating the planet is “like adding fuel to a fire”.