CSU Sees Above-Average Atlantic Hurricane Season

NEW YORK (Dow Jones), Apr. 7, 2010

The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will feature above-normal activity, forecasters at Colorado State University said Wednesday in a long-range forecast for the season that runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

The widely watched forecast predicts 15 named storms and eight hurricanes, including four major hurricanes, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

Long-term averages are 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes, and 2.3 major hurricanes. The 2009 season was the quietest since 1997, with nine named storms, three hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

On Dec. 9, the forecasters predicted 11 to 16 named storms, six to eight hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.

Forecasters said the expectations of above-average activity are based on the premise that El Nino weather conditions dissipate by the summer and that warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures will persist.

The probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69%, compared with the last-century average of 52%, said William Gray, who has issued forecasts for 27 years. "While patterns may change before the start of hurricane season, we believe current conditions warrant concern for an above-average season."

Forecasters said there are similarities this year to early April conditions that preceded the hurricane years of 1958, 1966, 1969, 1998 and 2005. All five of these seasons had above-average activity, especially the seasons of 1969, 1998 and 2005. The current forecast calls for the 2010 season to have slightly less activity than the average of these five earlier years.

Tropical cyclone activity in 2010 will be 160% of the average season. By comparison, 2009 witnessed tropical cyclone activity that was about 70% of the average season.

Forecasters also see a 45% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, compared with long-term average of 31%. There is a 44% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall in the Gulf Coast refining region from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville , compared with a 30% long-term average. The team also predicts a 58% chance of a major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean, compared with 42% long term.

El Nino conditions contributed to the mild 2009 season. El Nino refers to the unusual warming of the temperatures of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, with wide-ranging consequences. In April 2009, when the impact of El Nino was unforeseen, the forecasters projected a busier season than what occurred, expecting 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Only two, weak tropical storms made landfall in the 2009 season, about half the long-term average.

In March, meteorologists at Accu-Weather.com predicted an unusually active 2010 hurricane season, expecting 16 to 18 storms and five hurricanes, including two to three major hurricanes. WSI Corp. in January projected 13 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes.

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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