WSI Corp Cuts Storms Forecast on Cooler Atlantic Temperatures

HOUSTON, Jul 25, 2007 (Dow Jones Commodities News)

Cooler ocean waters in the Atlantic have led a private weather forecaster to reduce the number of hurricanes it expects this season.

Private forecaster WSI Corp. still expects an active hurricane season but reduced its original numbers based on a reading of cooler ocean waters.

WSI forecasters now predict 14 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense hurricanes of a Category 3 rating or greater, down from an earlier prediction of 15 storms, eight hurricanes and four intense hurricanes.

Warm ocean waters are one of two factors that drive storms in the energy infrastructure-rich Gulf of Mexico.

Ocean temperatures are still above normal, but are not as warm as they have been over the last two years as strong winds brought cooler waters southward into the Atlantic, causing ocean temperatures to drop, Dr. Todd Crawford, a seasonal forecaster with WSI Corp., told Dow Jones Newswires.

Tropical storms develop amid warm ocean waters and a lack of wind that would otherwise shear the top off a developing storm.

Crawford said he still expects an active tropical storm season as ocean temperatures are two-tenths of a degree warmer than normal and an El Nino weather pattern has not allowed for the development of strong winds.

WSI's forecast numbers are still above long-term averages of 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes, and 2.3 intense hurricanes, Crawford noted.

"It's still warmer than normal in the Atlantic but it isn't like it was a couple a years ago," he said.

During the 2005 storm season, which spawned hurricanes Katrina and Rita, two of the most damaging storms ever to hit the Gulf Coast region, ocean temperatures were 2.8 degrees above normal or what Crawford called an "aberration."

"It was off the scale," he said.

The massive damage caused by those storms, at one point, forced 100% of U.S. oil production and 80% of U.S. gas production in the region to remain shut in.

About 30% of U.S. oil and about 23% of the nation's gas comes from Gulf of Mexico wells.

Last year, ocean temperatures were 1.2 degrees higher but the presence of wind prevented storms from developing, Crawford said.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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