The first major storm of the hurricane season, Hurricane Bertha, has broken records despite being downgraded in severity as it passed close to the eastern tip of Bermuda today.
No hurricane on record has previously formed so far east in the Atlantic before August 1. Bertha was rated a category 1 hurricane last week – the least severe kind – before being re-categorised as a tropical storm as it neared Bermuda.
Hurricanes are produced by a combination of factors, but crucially depend on ocean water reaching a temperature of 26C. The formation of Bertha unusually far to the east, suggests the storm season may be severe. The US National Hurricane Center has forecast an above average number of storms this year, with up to five major hurricanes predicted in the North Atlantic between now and the end of October.
An enlarged area of hurricane formation will fuel fears that rising sea temperatures caused by global warming are leading to intensified hurricanes and extending the storm season.
A second hurricane, Elida, was identified in the East Pacific about 300 miles off Mexico. The East Pacific is the world’s hurricane centre, but most storms in the area blow out without ever hitting land.