Tropical Storm Philippe formed on Saturday, becoming the latest named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.
The National Hurricane Center estimated that the storm had sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, with higher gusts. As of 5 p.m. on Sunday, it was about 1,225 miles from the Cabo Verde Islands, the Hurricane Center said.
Tropical disturbances that have sustained winds of at least 39 m.p.h. earn a name. Once winds reach 74 m.p.h., a storm becomes a hurricane, and at 111 m.p.h. it becomes a major hurricane.
There were no watches, warnings or threats to land related to Philippe, the Hurricane Center said.
Forecasters described Philippe as “very difficult” to forecast about its projected intensity given conflicting data. But little about the storm’s strength is expected to change over the next three days. Philippe is expected to move west-northwest in the coming days.
The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1, and runs through Nov. 30.
In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that there would be 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near-normal” amount. On Aug. 10, NOAA officials revised their estimate upward, to 14 to 21 named storms.
There were 14 named storms last year, after two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (A record 30 named storms took place in 2020.)
This year features an El Niño pattern, which started in June. The intermittent climate phenomenon can have wide-ranging effects on weather around the world, and it typically impedes the number of Atlantic hurricanes.
In the Atlantic, El Niño increases the amount of wind shear, or the change in wind speed and direction from the ocean or land surface into the atmosphere. Hurricanes need a calm environment to form, and the instability caused by increased wind shear makes those conditions less likely.
At the same time, this year’s higher sea surface temperatures pose a number of threats, including the ability to supercharge storms. That unusual confluence of factors has made it more difficult to predict storms.
There is consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.
Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce.
In a warming world, the air can hold more moisture, which means a named storm can hold and produce more rainfall, like Hurricane Harvey did in Texas in 2017, when some areas received more than 40 inches of rain in less than 48 hours.
Researchers have also found that over the past few decades storms have slowed down, sitting over areas for longer.
When a storm slows down over water, it can absorb more moisture. When the storm slows over land, it can release more rain over a single location. In 2019, for example, Hurricane Dorian slowed to a crawl over the northwestern Bahamas, resulting in a total rainfall of 22.84 inches in Hope Town during the storm.
Rebecca Carballo contributed reporting.