MIAMI (Reuters) - The second tropical storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season formed on Thursday, thousands of miles (km) away from the United States and expected to eventually curve out northward over the open ocean, U.S. weather forecasters said.
Tropical Storm Bertha was located about 190 miles south-southwest of the Cape Verde islands at 11 a.m. EDT (3 p.m. GMT) and was moving toward the west-northwest at 14 miles per hour (22 km per hour), the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm's top winds had reached 40 mph (65 kph), just over the threshold at which the scattering of thunderclouds that constitute tropical depressions are called tropical storms and given names, the hurricane center said in an advisory.
Energy markets pay considerable attention to tropical storms in the Atlantic because of the potential for them to strengthen into hurricanes and threaten oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
The devastating hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, which included Katrina, the hurricane that swamped the city of New Orleans, destroyed or damaged dozens of oil rigs, cut undersea oil and gas pipelines and flooded onshore refineries, pushing oil prices to what were then record highs.
Long-range computer predictions did not foresee Bertha making it into the Gulf of Mexico, nor did most computer models expect the storm to get near the U.S. East Coast. Long-range forecasting, however, is highly unreliable.
A couple of the models used to predict a storm's future strength forecast that Bertha could become a hurricane with top winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph), the hurricane center said.
But its forecasters added that cooler Atlantic waters in its path and unfavorable atmospheric wind conditions ahead ought to prevent Bertha from strengthening too much.
Hurricane experts have predicted an above-average number of storms and hurricanes this season, which began on June 1 and runs through to the end of November.
The peak of the season usually begins in August and it is unusual for storms to form near the Cape Verde islands, 3,700 miles away from Florida, so early.
(Reporting by Michael Christie, Editing by)