A storm system south of Puerto Rico developed into Tropical Storm Fred on Tuesday night, the sixth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.
In an update before 11 p.m., the National Hurricane Center cautioned that Tropical Storm Fred was expected to produce heavy rainfall over Puerto Rico overnight and in Hispaniola on Wednesday, which could lead to flash flooding. Fred was producing winds up to 40 miles per hour, moving west at 17 m.p.h, the hurricane center said.
By Thursday, the hurricane center said, the storm is expected to be near the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The storm was expected to move over Cuba, and head northwest into the Gulf of Mexico, near Florida, according to a forecast by the hurricane center.
The storm could pose wind and rainfall threats to Florida by Friday, but forecast details were still unclear, the hurricane center said.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect to see stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
A major United Nations climate report released Monday warned that nations had delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they could no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have likely become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
The most recent named storm in the Atlantic was Hurricane Elsa in early July. Elsa cut through Cuba and then Florida, eventually making its way into New York City, where heavy rainfall from the storm flooded subway stations and roadways.
In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. Last week, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season would be an above average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.
Matthew Rosencrans, of the NOAA, said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Fred is the sixth named storm of 2021.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using Greek letters.
It was the highest number of storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and included the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.
Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.