Hurricane Sam, a Category 4 storm described by forecasters as “small but ferocious,” was projected to remain a major hurricane for several more days but was not expected to have a major impact on land.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, Sam is one of the strongest hurricanes in a busy 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed Thursday in the central Atlantic, the fourth named storm to develop in less than a week and the 18th this year.
But it was far away from land as of 5 a.m. Monday, about 800 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean, according to the National Hurricane Center. There were no coastal watches or warnings in effect, and forecasters said the only hazards affecting land would be potentially life-threatening swells reaching the Lesser Antilles starting Monday.
Forecasters said Sam’s intensity “has likely peaked” and that the storm would gradually weaken in the next few days.
The Saffir-Simpson scale classifies major hurricanes as Category 3 or higher, with maximum sustained winds above 110 m.p.h. Category 4 storms have wind speeds of 130 to 156 m.p.h. Sam is the fourth major hurricane of the year, joining Grace, Ida and Larry.
Subtropical Storm Teresa formed north of Bermuda on Friday but fizzled out over the weekend and “no longer meets the definition of a tropical cyclone,” the hurricane center said on Saturday.
After Sam and Teresa, the next named storms would be Victor and Wanda.
If forecasters go through the list, they will turn to an additional set of names approved by the World Meteorological Organization this year. That list begins with Adria, followed by Braylen and Caridad.
“With more than two months to go in the hurricane season, it is certainly possible that the 2021 Atlantic list of names will be exhausted,’’ said, Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the hurricane center in Miami.
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 most named storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes.
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, including three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic.
NOAA updated its forecast in early August, predicting 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Sam is the 18th named storm to form this year.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. 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.
Ana became the first named storm of the 2021 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.