Tropical Storm Josephine breaks record for Atlantic storms, more likely on the way

(Reuters) - Tropical Storm Josephine formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, hitting the earliest benchmark of a J-named storm on record, another sign the Atlantic hurricane season is more active than usual, forecasters said.

“It’s the earliest 10th named storm on record. It means we’re in a busy time ahead,” said Daniel Brown, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center.

“Typically we’d have just three named storms at this time of year,” Brown said. “This is a lot.”

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Aug. 6 increased its prediction for the number of tropical storms expected this year to as many as 25, the highest in the agency’s history, forecasters said.

By the end of the season on Nov. 30, NOAA predicts there will have been between seven and 11 hurricanes, of which six will be major, packing winds of 111 miles per hour (178 kph).

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1, has already produced two hurricanes, including Isaias that lashed the North American Atlantic coast in early August and Hanna that hit the southeast Texas coast in July.

It was unclear if Josephine, packing maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph), would hit the U.S. coast. It was located about 865 miles (1,395 km) east southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands at 5 p.m., the Miami-based forecaster said.

Its topical force winds extended about 80 miles outward of its center. It could at least peak at 60 mph winds late Friday or into early Saturday, before weakening.

Previously, the earliest record-breaking J-named storm was Jose, which formed 9 days later in the season, on Aug. 22, 2005.

“Normally, we wouldn’t see a 10th (named storm) until October,” Brown said. “We haven’t even hit the peak (of the season) yet.”

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Bill Tarrant and David Gregorio