State: CSU team eases hurricane prediction |

State: CSU team eases hurricane prediction

— A lowering of Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures and other factors have caused hurricane researchers at Colorado State University to revise downward their estimate of the number of major hurricanes this year from five to three.

“The probability of another Katrina-like event is very small,” said Philip Klotzbach, lead forecaster for the hurricane research team.

The researchers reduced the number of likely hurricanes from nine to seven and intense hurricanes from five to three.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami in May predicted 16 named storms in the Atlantic, six of them major hurricanes. “Our next update is Tuesday. They are still noodling the numbers. It is more likely than not that it will be an above-average season,” said Frank Lepore, spokesman for the Miami center.

The Fort Collins-based team said there is considerably higher-than-average probability of at least one intense hurricane making landfall in the United States this year, 73 percent. The average is 52 percent.

Researcher William Gray said several factors suggest less activity. Atlantic sea surface temperatures are not quite as warm and surface pressure is not quite as low. Also, the eastern equatorial Pacific has warmed some, and trade winds in the tropical Atlantic are slightly stronger.

“Overall, we think the 2006 Atlantic basin tropical storm season will be somewhat active,” Klotzbach said. “This year 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.”

Gray and his team says hurricane activity will continue to be above average for another 15 to 20 years.

Thirteen major hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic Basin the past two years, seven of them striking the U.S. coast with devastating damage resulting from four of them in 2005: Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Klotzbach and Gray call for a total of 15 named storms to form in the Atlantic basin this year, down by two from their prediction May 31. On average, there are 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.

For Florida and the East Coast, the probability of a storm landfall is 64 percent, compared with a long-term average of 31 percent.

From the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, the probability is 26 percent, compared with a long-term average of 30 percent.

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