Colorado State Cuts 06 Hurricane Views, Sees Aug-Sep above Avg

NEW YORK, Aug 03, 2006, Dow Jones Newswires

The 2006 hurricane season will be marked by above-average activity but won't be as intense as earlier predicted or as powerful as the record 2005 season, forecasters at Colorado State University said Thursday.

The forecasters now expect 15 tropical storms this season, with seven becoming hurricanes and three becoming intense hurricanes of Category 3 or above, meaning they pack winds of 111 miles per hour or more.

In May, the forecasters predicted 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2005 season was busiest ever, with 28 named storms and 15 hurricanes, with seven of those Category 3 or above.

The long-term average for the Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.

The latest forecast presents a potentially less perilous outlook for the key U.S. Gulf Coast refining region, where 6.6 million barrels a day, or 38%, of U.S. refining capacity is housed.

The odds of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the region - between the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas - is now cut to below the long-term average.

The likelihood of landfall by at least one intense hurricane on the Gulf Coast is seen at 26%, below the 38% forecast in May and below the long-term average of 30%.

Forecasters William Gray and Philip Klotzbach said the probability that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the U.S. this year is 73%. While that is down from the May forecast of 82%, it is higher than the long-term average of 52%.

For the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, the probability of landfill of an intense hurricane is now seen at 64%, down from 69% in the May forecast, but above the 31% long-term average.

The forecasters still see above-average storm activity in August and September, despite an "average" start to the season, with just two tropical storms forming in June and July. By this time last year, two major hurricanes had formed in the Atlantic Basin.

In August, four named storms, three hurricanes and one intense hurricane are forecast.

September is forecast to be more active, with five named storms, three hurricanes and two intense hurricanes.

In October, two named storms are expected, with a single hurricane that won't be an intense hurricane.

"We're not reducing the number of hurricanes because we had only two named storms through late July," said Gray. "It's a general erosion of a number of factors," including sea surface temperatures that aren't as warm as had been expected in the tropical Atlantic and slightly stronger trade winds.

In a press release, Klotzbach said the 2006 hurricane season will register at about 140% of normal, compared with the long-term average.

"It looks like the East Coast is more likely to be targeted by Atlantic basin hurricanes than the Gulf Coast, although the possibility exists that any point along the U.S. coast could be affected by a hurricane this year," he said.

The forecasts also expect a more active-than-normal hurricane season in the Caribbean region.

Gray reiterated that the U.S. is in a period of intense long-term hurricane activity.

"We're in this active cycle in the Atlantic basin that is expected to last another 15 to 20 years," he said. "There's no evidence that storms have gotten worse because the globe has warmed."

The May forecast from the Colorado State team was in line with NOAA's prediction for 13-16 named storms, eight to 10 hurricanes and four to six Category 3 or above storms. NOAA is scheduled to update its forecast on Aug. 8. Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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