(CNN) The first tropical depression of the season formed Saturday afternoon off the east coast of Florida.
Based on readings from the Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance plane, the National Hurricane Center designated the area a depression and began issuing forecasts. The current track prompted the issuance of a tropical storm watch for portions of the North Carolina coast
"The system should gradually strengthen during the next couple of days and should become a tropical storm tonight or Sunday with slow strengthening as it nears the North Carolina coast," the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
When the storm is upgraded, it will mark the sixth year in a row that a storm will have formed before the start of hurricane season on June 1.
During the day Saturday, the core of the depression remained in the Atlantic Ocean parallel to the east coast of Florida. There have been scattered showers across central and southern Florida and that will continue through the evening. The proximity of the depression to the coast will produce dangerous rip currents along Florida's east coast.
The system will traverse over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream in an area of weak upper level winds, which aid in strengthening the system.
By Monday it could brush along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and then turn eastward toward the open Atlantic and away from east coast of the US.
A US Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft was scheduled to investigate the system again later Saturday night.
Areas of the Pacific Ocean have had an interesting start to the tropical season. On April 25, Tropical Depression ONE-E formed south of Mexico's Baja California region, marking the first tropical depression on record in the month of April for the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
This is quite the contrast to the Western Pacific, which just had its eighth latest start to a tropical season since 1950.
The first storm of the year is poised to develop in the Bay of Bengal this weekend and will likely be quite strong when it impacts India and Bangladesh next week.
While these season's have already started, the Atlantic doesn't officially begin until June 1.
The official Atlantic seasonal forecast doesn't come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration until May 21. But there are over a dozen early forecasts already published.
There is a strong consensus in the forecasts across the industry indicating the Atlantic is in for an active season.