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Record Nears: 7 Storms Without a Hurricane

Tropical Storm Gert near Bermuda on August 15, 2011. (Image credit: NASA.)

If Tropical Storm Gert, currently churning to the east of Bermuda, fails to strengthen to a hurricane, this year will be the first since record-keeping began to have seven tropical cyclones come and go before the season's first hurricane.

The last time a hurricane season saw so many tropical storms before seeing a hurricane was 2002. That year, Tropical Storm Gustav eventually broke the string by strengthening to a Category 2 storm.

Gert has only an 8 percent chance of strengthening to a hurricane over the next 72 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center. But even if Gert doesn't become a hurricane, this unprecedented run of tropical storms may not be all that meaningful.

Recent stretches of less powerful tropical storms could be due to the fact that more storms are getting names today than in the past, said Phil Klozbach, a hurricane forecaster at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Fifty years ago, small tropical storms would have gone unnoticed, whereas today they are being named.

"I wouldn't get too caught up in that [new record] except that it's an interesting piece of trivia," Klozbach told OurAmazingPlanet.

The hurricane forecast from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls for 14 to 19 named storms (which include tropical storms and hurricanes), seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

"I'd say if we go another two weeks and there's no hurricane there might be something going on," Klotzbach said.

Projection of Tropical Storm Gert's strength and path 5 days out. Credi: NHC/NOAA

Hurricane season kicks into high gear around Aug. 20, Klozbach said. Last year was a late-blooming season, but it was unusually active. Those hurricanes might not have been noticed by people in the United States, however, as none of them made landfall in the U.S.

A hurricane has not hit the United States in nearly three years. If no hurricanes hit the United States this year, the 3-year gap would be the longest lull between U.S. hurricane landfalls in recorded history, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Email OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at bisrael@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Correction: The original article stated that the 2002 Hurricane Gustav was a Category 4 hurricane that hit Louisiana, killing 112 people. Those details describe the 2008 Hurricane Gustav.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.