PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- As NOAA's GOES-West satellite orbited atop the South Pacific on Wednesday, it captured an image of the early stages of Tropical Storm Ula.
The low pressure system first began to coalesce on Tuesday. Dubbed System 92P, the storm was officially named a cyclone on Wednesday -- just as NOAA's weather satellite spotted it east of American Samoa.
At last report, the cyclone's maximum sustained wind speeds clocked in at 53.7 miles per hour. Currently 324 miles east-northeast of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Tropical Cyclone Ula is moving south-southeast at a speed of nearly 15 miles per hour.
Forecasters expect the system to remain south of American Samoa as it moves west. It will likely increase in strength in the coming days, with winds reaching hurricane-force on New Year's Eve.
Ula is only the second tropical cyclone to form in the South Pacific in 2015. Increased wind shear as a result of this year's strong El Nino system is expected to continue to hinder the formation of cyclones in the region.