Colorado State Experts Predict 17 Named Atlantic Tropical Storms, Nine Hurricanes in 2006

December 8, 2005

Predictions of 17 named storms in the Atlantic basin next year, with nine developing into hurricanes, have been predicted by William Gray and Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University. The experts forecast five major hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph.

The report forecasts an 81 percent probability of at least one major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline, with a 64 percent probability that such a storm will hit the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula. The team predicts the probability of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, is 47 percent.

Still, the likelihood of hurricanes making landfall with the frequency of the past two years is “very low,” according to the scientists.

“It is rare to have two consecutive years with such a strong simultaneous combination of high amounts of major hurricane activity together with especially favorable steering flow currents. The historical records and the laws of statistics indicate that the probability of seeing another two consecutive hurricane seasons like 2004-2005 is very low,” Gray and Klotzbach say in their report.

Gray, who has been the lead forecaster at the university for 22 years, has, with this latest report, shifted primary responsibility for producing the report to Klotzbach, his research associate of five years. The university’s tropical meteorology project began in 1983.

Although he will still be involved in the forecast for the next few years, Gray is devoting more of his time to researching global warming.
The report cautions that there is “no physical basis” that links hurricane intensity or frequency to global mean surface temperature changes of less than .5 degrees centigrade.

The increase in Atlantic basin hurricanes across the past 11 years, the researchers said, is a result of an increased strength the past few decades in global oceanic circulation, driven by changes in salinity.

“Seasonal and monthly variations of sea surface temperature within individual storm basins show only very low correlations with monthly, seasonal, and yearly variations of hurricane activity,” Klotzbach and Gray write. “Other factors such as tropospheric vertical wind shear, surface pressure, low level vorticity, mid-level moisture, etc. play more dominant roles in explaining hurricane variability than do surface temperatures.”

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