Expert Predicts Busy Season, Four Intense Hurricanes

June 1, 2005

Colorado State University Professor William Gray has updated his assessment of the 2005 hurricane season, predicting 15 tropical storms between now and Nov. 30, eight of which will grow to hurricane strength.

Gray and his research team predict a very active hurricane season with an above-average number of storms and high odds of a major hit on the united states. They expect four storms to strengthen into intense hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater, which can cause extensive damage.

The revised estimate in Gray’s final preseason forecast was up from 13 storms and seven hurricanes initially anticipated in his April forecast. The long-term average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

“We have adjusted our forecast upward from our early April forecast and now expect tropical cyclone activity to be about 170 percent of the average seasonal activity,” Gray said.

There is a 77 percent chance of an intense hurricane hitting somewhere along the U.S. coastline in 2005, compared with a long-term average of 52 percent, the researchers said.

The Atlantic coast of the United States has a 59 percent chance of experiencing intense hurricane this year, compared with a long-term average of 31 percent, they said. For the Gulf of Mexico from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, the probability of a major hit is 44 percent, compared with a long-term average of 30 percent, the researchers said.

The islands of the Caribbean and the Bahamas also faced above-average chances of a major hurricane strike, they said.

The revision was based in part on a decreased likelihood of the development of an El Nino, a periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific waters that tends to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.

The researchers also cited salinity changes that affect seawater density and in turn change the way warm and cold water circulate in the oceans. Those oscillations tend to come in 40- to 60-year cycles that bring decades of fewer storms followed by decades of more frequent storms.

“We expect this active tropical cyclone era to continue this year and to likely span the next two or three decades,” said Philip Klotzbach, another of the researchers.

Last year was also an unusually busy hurricane season, with 15 tropical storms that spawned nine hurricanes in the Atlantic region, causing more than $45 billion of devastation. Four of the storms hit Florida.

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