FORT COLLINS, Colorado., May 31, 2007 (AP)
Colorado State University hurricane researcher William Gray's revised forecast issued Thursday calls for nine hurricanes this season, five of them becoming intense.
The forecast is unchanged from the April projection for 17 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. Of those, nine are expected to be hurricanes, of which five would be intense, with sustained winds above 111 miles per hour.
The projection is at the upper end of a forecast made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which said earlier this month there is a 75% chance of an above normal season, consisting of 13-17 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes.
Long-term averages for hurricane season feature 9.6 named storms and 5.9 hurricanes, two of which are intense storms.
The 2005 season - featuring Katrina and Rita - was the most active ever with a record 28 storms and 15 hurricanes, including seven major hurricanes, of which a record four hit the U.S.
Despite forecasts for an above-normal 2006 season, it turned out to be below average, with 10 named storms, 5 hurricanes and only 2 major hurricanes. For the first time since 2001, no hurricanes made landfall in the continental U.S. in 2006.
The weaker-than-expected 2006 season was blamed on the presence of El Nino, the name given to the phenomenon that causes an unusual warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and has global implications, and the presence of large volumes of West African dust in the atmosphere, which dried up the moisture necessary for hurricanes to occur.
Forecasters have said La Nina weather conditions, an unusual cooling of the temperatures of the equatorial Pacific, will help increase the likelihood of an above-average active hurricane season this year.
Colorado State forecasters reiterated there is a 74% chance of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. this season, compared with the long-term average of 52%.
There is a 50% chance of a major hurricane making landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, up from the 31% long-term average, they said.
There is a 49% chance that a major hurricane will hit the U.S. Gulf Coast region, from the Florida panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas, compared with a 30% long-term probability.
The Colorado State team also predicts an above-average risk of hurricane landfall in the Caribbean this season.
Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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