Tropical Storm Fiona formed late on Wednesday, becoming the sixth named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.
The storm, which was about 600 miles east of the Leeward Islands as of Wednesday night, had maximum sustained winds near 50 miles an hour, said John Cangialosi, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center. A storm is given a name after it reaches wind speeds of at least 39 miles per hour.
Fiona was expected to move near the Leeward Islands on Friday night and then to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday, he said. Tropical storm watches — meaning that tropical storm conditions are possible, generally within 48 hours — were issued for islands including St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Our intensity prediction here is kind of low-confidence,” Mr. Cangialosi said. “So if you’re anywhere in the Caribbean belt, keep an eye on Fiona, and at least get ready for a strong tropical storm to come through.”
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through November, had a relatively quiet start, with only three named storms before September. There were no named storms in the Atlantic during August, the first time that had happened since 1997. But storm activity picked up in early September, with Danielle and Earl, which both eventually became hurricanes, forming within a day of each other.
In early August, scientists at NOAA issued an updated forecast for the rest of the season, which still called for an above-normal level of activity. In it, they predicted the season — which runs through Nov. 30 — could see 14 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 turning into hurricanes that sustain winds of at least 74 m.p.h. Three to five of those could strengthen into what NOAA calls major hurricanes — Category 3 or stronger — with winds of at least 111 m.p.h.
Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020. For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that has happened only one other time, in 2005.
The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year. Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide during the past four decades. A warming planet can expect 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.
Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.