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Tropical Storm Ernesto Breaks Atlantic Storm Lull

Tropical Storm Ernesto seen by a NASA satellite
On Aug. 2, 2012, at 10:20 a.m. NASA's Terra satellite captured this stunning visible image of Tropical Storm approaching the Lesser Antilles. The image showed the highest, strongest thunderstorms on the eastern side of the storm from north to south. (Image credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team )

Tropical Storm Ernesto formed yesterday (Aug. 2), breaking more than a month of relatively quiet skies over the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean basins.

Ernesto, which currently has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph), is the fifth named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. The previous named storm, Debby, formed all the way back in late June. No named storms formed in July.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Dominica, Saint Lucia and Martinique and Guadeloupe, which means that tropical storm conditions are expected there in the next 12 hours. Winds from Ernesto have been gusting up to 63 mph (101 kph) in Saint Lucia, according to the latest advisory from the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The center of the storm is currently about 45 miles (65 kilometers) west-southwest of Saint Lucia and 25 miles (45 km) west-northwest of St. Vincent.

Ernesto could strengthen some in the next 48 hours, according to the NHC forecast, though so far it has not been a well-organized storm.

The tropical storm is moving westward across the Caribbean Sea; this motion will take it over warmer waters, which could fuel its development. The NHC forecast has the storm potentially becoming a hurricane by Monday.

Hurricane hunters are planning to fly through Ernesto today to take measurements that will help forecasters get a better picture of the storm.

Only one hurricane, Chris, has formed so far during this Atlantic season, which is expected to be a normal one with nine to 15 named storms, of which between four and eight are likely to become hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be giving a revised forecast next week. Typically the busiest months of the Atlantic hurricane season are August and September.

This story was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to LiveScience.