updated 6/19/2012 6:20:31 PM ET 2012-06-19T22:20:31

Tropical Storm Chris, the third named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, has roared to life in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Storms are christened with an official name only when they reach tropical storm strength — a classification that requires top sustained winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph).

The burgeoning storm had a fifty-fifty chance of intensifying, according to forecasts issued earlier today  (June 19), and the storm has gained strength as it has crept northeast.

The storm was named at around 5 p.m, ET, when a report from the National Hurricane Center showed the storm was packing maximum winds of 45 mph (75 kph).

Tropical Storm Chris lies far out to sea, many miles east of New England, and poses no threat to land. It is projected to accelerate as it continues east, and strengthen very slightly about two days from now.

Only twice before has the third named storm for the Atlantic hurricane season appeared earlier than June 19, according to NHC records — first in 1887, then in 1959, according to NHC records. 

The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts until Nov. 30, is projected to be a normal one, forecasters said.

The outlook indicates a near-normal season is likely, with a total of nine to 15 named storms for the Atlantic in 2012. Of those storms, between four and eight are likely to become hurricanes — organized, rotating storms with sustained winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or faster.

Between one and three are likely to become major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 storms or above — hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph (179 mph).

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