CSU Forecasts Five Major Hurricanes In 2011 Season
Author: Jane Sutton
Colorado State University forecasters predicted the Atlantic hurricane season that began on Wednesday would be a busy one with 16 tropical storms and nine of those growing into hurricanes.
The CSU team predicted five of the storms would become "major" hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.
The forecast for the six-month hurricane season was unchanged from the CSU team's April forecast. But that would still be busier than an average season, which brings 11 storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic-Caribbean basin are warmer than normal and the El Nino oscillation had moved into a near-neutral phase, conditions that contribute to storm development, the forecasters said.
"We continue to anticipate an above-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall," said William Gray, who pioneered CSU's seasonal forecasts.
The CSU team said there was a 72 percent chance that a major hurricane would hit somewhere on the U.S. coast this year, based on historical averages.
They said there was a 47 percent chance that a major hurricane would make landfall along the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico, where major oil and gas facilities are clustered.
Both those percentages were above the long-term average.
"These probabilities are based on the idea that more active seasons tend to have more landfalls, but coastal residents should prepare the same way every year for landfall, regardless of how active or inactive the forecast might be," said lead forecaster Phil Klotzbach.
The United States escaped without being hit by any hurricanes during the busy 2010 season.
The CSU outlook is in line with those of other meteorologists who issue seasonal forecasts, all of whom expect an above-average year.
AccuWeather also updated its forecast on Wednesday, leaving it unchanged at 15 tropical storms with eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
(Editing by David Gregorio)