The season's seventh tropical storm, to be named Gabrielle, could form within the next few days off the west African coast, but the hurricane season is meanwhile falling increasingly behind its typical pace -- likely the sixth season since 1944 without a hurricane through August.
An area of low pressure over Mauritania and Senegal has a 40 percent chance of forming into a tropical cyclone over the next two days as it moves westward toward the Cape Verde Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center estimates a 60 percent chance of a cyclone forming within five days.
But the storm would have a long way to go before affecting North America, and is expected to face some unfavorable conditions on the way, according to forecasts.
Aside from that system, one other disturbance 700 miles east of the Lesser Antilles islands has a 10 percent chance of becoming a tropical storm in the next two days.
While the number of named systems is ahead of normal, there is an unusual lack of hurricanes. By this time in an average year, there have been five named storms, two of them reaching hurricane status. So far, there have been six named storms and zero hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for an active season, with 13 to 19 tropical storms, six to nine of them strengthening to hurricane status.
The season is in the midst of its normal peak, which runs from mid-August to mid-September, so there is time for activity to spike. But the season is meanwhile falling further behind the forecasts with each passing day of quiet tropical weather.
The Weather Underground's Jeff Masters notes that only five other times since Hurricane Hunter aircraft began flying in 1944 has a hurricane failed to form by the end of August, in 2002, 2001, 1988, 1984, and 1967.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun