The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Sam has formed in the southern Atlantic. It is the seventh hurricane of the season and is likely to become a major hurricane in the next 24 hours.

In their latest report, forecasters at the hurricane center say Sam is still a long way from land, more than 2,300 kilometers east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.

But its maximum sustained winds are at 120 km/h and rapid intensification is forecast to continue. Sam is likely to become a Category 3 hurricane late Friday or early Saturday, with winds of at least 178 km/h.

Colorado State University Meteorologist and hurricane specialist Philip Klotzbach, on Twitter, said that if Sam reaches major hurricane status, it will be the fourth storm to do so this season. Since satellite forecasting began in 1966, there have been only seven previous years with four or more major Atlantic hurricanes.  

Klotzbach says the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is already trending more active than average, with 18 named storms and seven hurricanes, compared to the average of 10 and four. There have been nearly 56 days with active named storms compared to the average of about 47 per season.  

Klotzbach also notes that the average date for the seventh Atlantic hurricane to form is November 16, putting this season way ahead of normal.

Forecasters remain unsure if Sam’s track poses a threat to land as some forecast models have it tracking safely northward, while others put it closer to the Leeward Islands by early next week.

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