The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday that the formation of Tropical Storm Gonzalo is nearly inevitable, giving the system a 90 percent chance of reaching tropical storm strength within the next 48 hours.
The system does not pose an immediate threat to Florida, according to a 5 p.m. update from the hurricane center, but has the potential to set a record as the earliest seventh named storm in an Atlantic hurricane season. The current record was set by Tropical Storm Gert on July 24, 2005.
“The low-pressure area located about midway between the west coast of Africa and the Lesser Antilles continues to get better organized and a tropical depression appears to be forming,” the hurricane center wrote in an advisory.
The system is moving toward the west-northwest at eight miles per hour, the hurricane center said. Forecasters project the system will pick up speed and turn northwest on Tuesday night and that it will continue in that direction through Friday. Sustained wind speeds as of 5 p.m. Tuesday were 35 miles per hour.
Storms forming earlier than usual have been typical this hurricane season.
Two named storms formed in the Atlantic before the official start of the hurricane season June 1 — Tropical Storm Arthur off the coast of Florida May 16 and Tropical Storm Bertha on May 27. The earliest tropical cyclone on record also formed earlier this year in the eastern North Pacific on April 25.
Storm formation in the eastern and central tropical Atlantic regions before August is often a sign of an active hurricane season, said Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University. The system that’s projected to become Gonzalo is in the central tropical Atlantic.
The system that could become Tropical Storm Gonzalo isn’t alone in the Atlantic. A disturbance near eastern Cuba has a medium chance of becoming a named storm as well. If Gonzalo forms as expected, the additional system would become Hanna.
The system off Cuba’s coast has brought higher rain chances and breezy conditions to Florida this week. An update from the hurricane center on Tuesday gave the system a 40 percent chance of formation in the next five days before making an eventual landfall in Texas by the weekend.