[Breaking news update at 11:06 a.m. ET]
Danny has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Danny continues to move west toward the Leeward and Windward Islands. The forecast calls for the storm to remain a hurricane and threaten the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico by early next week.
[Original story published Wednesday at 12:46 p.m. ET]
Danny continued to churn across the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, still as a tropical storm, but probably not for much longer, the National Hurricane Center said.
By late Wednesday morning, Danny’s 50 mph winds spanned 70 miles across as the storm moved westerly at a 14 mph clip, the National Weather Service said.
In its latest update, though, the weather service backed off an earlier prediction that Danny would graduate to hurricane status as early as Thursday, saying now that it could become a hurricane by Friday after restrengthening over the next 48 hours.
It also reined in a previous prediction that Danny would become a Category 2 hurricane with 100+ mph winds by Sunday; saying now that it would peter out as a Category 1 storm with 90+ mph winds on Saturday instead.
But for now, Danny is still way out there — as in still-closer-to-Africa-than-the-U.S. East-Coast out there — so it’s still too early to tell if Danny will have any impact on the United States and, if so, where or when.
CNN’s storm tracker forecasts the storm reaching the Caribbean by Monday, still as a Category 1.
El Niño’s effect on hurricanes
The development of Danny from disturbance to depression to storm to possible hurricane follows an unusually quiet August, raising the prospect of no named hurricanes this year in Atlantic.
This year’s El Niño could rival the one of 18 years ago, which would mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes as a result of increased upper level winds that prevent them from developing. In fact, officials are predicting a calm 2015 hurricane season in the United States.
Hurricane Arthur, a Category 2 storm, was the last hurricane to make landfall in the United States, when it came ashore last July between Cape Lookout and Beaufort in Emerald Island, North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said.
Though forecasters are calling for a below-average storm season in the Atlantic, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said storms in the region can have a strong impact.
Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida and south-central Louisiana in August 1992 with 175-mph winds, wiping out entire communities, killing 23 people and causing more than $25 billion in damage.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center, which has updated its 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, there is a 90% chance of a below-normal hurricane season and a lower chance of expected storm activity in the United States this year.
This means that of the 6 to 10 named storms for this season, 1 to 4 storms are likely to become hurricanes in 2015.
And there’s an even smaller chance that one of these storms will transform into a major hurricane. The National Hurricane Center calls any Category 3 or higher storm a major hurricane.
The naturally occurring climate cycle known as El Niño has strengthened, causing several factors that prevent hurricanes from forming, such as increased wind shears, strong winds that travel in a vertical direction and enhanced sinking motion across the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
Also, the Atlantic Ocean has had much cooler temperatures, which decreases the chances of major storm activity.
Since 1995, the United States has been in a high hurricane activity area, which typically lasts around 25 years. But for almost a decade, the country hasn’t seen a hurricane greater than a Category 3 storm, putting it in a nine-year hurricane “drought.”
The United States has indeed seen some big storms in the past few years though. In 2012, hurricane-turned-cyclone Superstorm Sandy, ravaged the Northeast with damaging flooding and powerful winds.
But this has been the longest stretch of time to pass without a major hurricane hitting the United States since reliable record keeping began in 1850, a 2015 NASA study said.