Hurricane Epsilon spun through the open Atlantic Monday and defied forecasters’ expectations that it would weaken as it moved over increasingly colder water.
At 11 a.m. ET, the center of the storm was about 545 miles west-southwest of the Azores, a group of Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic.
It was moving east-southeast at about 8 mph. Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said they expected the storm to slow down, loop back to the southwest and dissipate over the next few days.
Epsilon did not threaten land but was still a hurricane with top sustained winds of 80 mph.
The 14th hurricane of a record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season had alternately weakened and strengthened, wobbling back and forth across the 74-mph threshold that categorizes a tropical storm as a hurricane.
Hurricanes need warm water for fuel and forecasters were perplexed at Epsilon’s tenacity in the chilly north Atlantic, where it had been expected to fizzle.
“I am not going to speculate any more on the future intensity of Epsilon,” hurricane forecaster Lixian Avila said in an advisory on the Miami-based hurricane center’s Web site.
The six-month 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended Nov. 30, but December hurricanes are not unprecedented. Epsilon was the sixth to occur in December since record-keeping began in 1851.
The 2005 season was the busiest on record, with 26 tropical storms, besting the old record of 21 set in 1933. Fourteen of them grew into hurricanes, beating the record of 12 set in 1969.
The long-term average is 10 tropical storms per season, with six strengthening into hurricanes. For the first time, forecasters exhausted their annual list of 21 tropical storm names and turned to the Greek alphabet to name the last five, including Epsilon.