Tropical Storm Bonnie forms, lashing Central America

Residents leaving the Bluefields port before the arrival of Tropical Storm Bonnie in Bluefields, Nicaragua, on July 1, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Hours after intense wind and rain began lashing Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Tropical Storm Bonnie became the second named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season on Friday (July 1), bringing with it the risk of life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides.

A storm is given a name after it reaches wind speeds of at least 62kmh, but days before Bonnie reached that point, it was bringing heavy rain and weather alerts to the Caribbean region.

By Friday, the storm had strengthened slightly and moved into the south-western Caribbean Sea.

The Nicaragua-Costa Rica border up to Laguna de Perlas, Nicaragua, was under a hurricane watch, and the storm is expected to move through the area into Saturday.

While the system was forecast to weaken when crossing over Central America, it was expected to restrengthen once it reaches the warmer waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean on Saturday.

Forecasters are watching two other storms in the Atlantic, including one that is expected to bring heavy rain this weekend to the US Gulf Coast, where flood alerts are in effect in Texas and Louisiana.

The other, much farther east, is expected to slowly follow Bonnie's path towards Central America over the weekend.

Tropical Storm Alex, which formed on June 5, was the first named storm of what is expected to be an "above-normal" hurricane season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If that prediction comes true, 2022 would be the seventh consecutive year with an above-normal season.

This year, meteorologists predict the season - which runs through Nov 30 - will produce 14 to 21 named storms.

Six to 10 of them are expected to become hurricanes, and up to six of those are forecast to strengthen into major hurricanes, classified as Category 3 storms with winds of at least 178kmh.

Last year, there were 21 named storms, after a record-breaking 30 in 2020.

For the past two years, meteorologists have exhausted the list of names used to identify storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, an occurrence that has happened only one other time, in 2005.

The links between hurricanes and climate change have become clearer with each passing year.

Data shows that hurricanes have become stronger worldwide during the past four decades.

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 vapour 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.

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