Forecaster: Very Active '07 Hurricane Season, 17 Named Storms

NEW YORK Apr 03, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The 2007 Atlantic Basin hurricane season likely will be "very active," with 17 named storms, nine hurricanes, including five intense storms ranked as Category 3 or above, forecasters at Colorado State University said Tuesday.

Forecaster Phil Klotzbach said the season won't be as active as the 2004 or the 2005 season, which was noted for the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In 2006, no hurricanes made landfall along the U.S. coastline.

The probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 74% compared with the last-century average of 52%, Klotzbach said.

There is a 50% chance that a hurricane could make landfall on the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, compared with a long-term average of 31%, the forecasters said.

There is a 49% chance of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas, compared with a long-term average of 30%. The region houses a large portion of the U.S. oil refining industry and substantial offshore oil and gas production.

In 2006 the season included 10 named storms, five hurricanes and two intense hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

Long-term averages are for 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year in the season that runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Forecasters predict that so-called tropical cyclone activity in 2007 will be 185% of the average season. By comparison the 2005 season recorded activity that was 275% of the average.

Klotzbach noted that the 2006 season was only the 12th year since 1945 that no hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. Since then, there have been only two consecutive-year periods when there were no hurricane landfalls, 1981-82 and 2000-01.

Forecasters also predicted above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean region.

William Gray, a 24-year veteran of the Colorado State forecast, said continued warm tropical and north Atlantic sea-surface temperatures, which have been prevalent in most years since 1995, and neutral to weak La Nina conditions are "a recipe for greatly enhanced Atlantic basin hurricane activity." Gray said conditions are similar to those that existed in 1952, 1964, 1966, 1995 and 2003 seasons, which each recorded above-average activity.

Gray said there is "no reliable data" to indicate that global temperature change is causing increased hurricane intensity or frequency. "Meteorologists who study tropical cyclone basins have no valid physical theory as to why hurricane frequency or intensity would necessarily be altered significantly by small amounts of global mean temperature change."

The latest forecast calls for a more active season in 2007 than Colorado State projected in its Dec. 8, 2006 projections, when it called for 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes.

In pre-season 2006 forecasts, like the one issued this time last year, Colorado State joined other forecasters in calling for a very active 2006 season, with well-above average landfall probabilities.

But those forecasts were downgraded over time as drier tropical Atlantic air, due to high levels of atmospheric dust from West Africa, and warm equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures due to the appearance of El Nino, altered the conditions that needed for an active hurricane season.

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

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