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Chris Becomes First Hurricane of 2012 Season
The storm is producing thunderstorms and strong winds.
Credit: NOAA.

Tropical Storm Chris strengthened to become a hurricane this morning (June 21), the first of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

Chris became a tropical storm on June 19, forming far out to sea and parallel with New England.

The storm currently has maximum sustained winds 75 mph (120 kph) — just above the threshold to qualify for hurricane status.

Chris is currently about 625 miles (1005 kilometers) southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada, and is heading toward the northeast at about 20 mph (32 kph). It is expected to turn toward the north later today, then later to the northwest and west and isn't expected to pose any threat to populated areas.

Hurricane Chris, which has a discernable eye in satellite images, will likely weaken as it move over colder northern ocean waters and into a more stable air mass, both of which hamper a storm's convective engine.

Chris is the third named storm (which includes tropical storms and hurricanes) of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Tropical Storms Alberto and Beryl formed before the official June 1 start of the hurricane season. Only twice before has the third named storm for the Atlantic hurricane season appeared earlier than June 19 — first in 1887, then in 1959, according to NHC records.

The outlook for the 2012 hurricane season indicates it will be a near-normal one, with a total of nine to 15 named storms. Of those storms, between four and eight are likely to become hurricanes — organized, rotating storms with sustained winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or faster.

Between one and three are likely to become major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 storms or above — hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph (179 mph).

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.