Aug. 5, 2005 As weather-wise eyes watch Tropical Depression 9 blow across the Atlantic Ocean, Colorado State University hurricane forecaster William Gray and his team Friday upped their prediction to 20 named storms for the entire 2005 hurricane season. Of that figure, they expect 10 will become hurricanes, with six of them becoming major hurricanes with winds over 111 mph.
"Based on research data obtained through July, we foresee one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. This is the highest level of hurricane activity we have ever forecast since beginning seasonal hurricane forecasting at Colorado State in 1984," Gray said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Scott Stripling, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, urged residents to watch out for what's coming behind Tropical Depression 9.
"Computer models bring this wave toward the area," Stripling said.
He said it should reach the area around Aug. 14. While it's too soon to say how intense the storm will be or if it will hit the territory, Stripling said the hurricane season is well ahead of its normal rate.
"It's even ahead of 1995, so I'm suggesting everyone pay attention," Stripling said, noting that the year 1995 was very active.
It was also the year that the territory got slammed by Hurricane Marilyn.
Gray's team member Philip Klotzbach said that Friday's forecast increase is due to continuing enhancement of tropical cyclone formation conditions.
"Continued Atlantic Ocean warming, reduced vertical wind shear, low tropical Atlantic sea level pressures, increased West African rainfall, and lack of El Nino conditions in the Pacific are some of the strongest factors driving this season," Klotzbach said.
The forecast team does not attribute the increased number of storms to global warming. Instead, they are viewed as the result of long-term natural climate alterations that history shows have occurred many times in the past.
Gray said research shows the United States has entered an era of increased major hurricane activity that's been reflected in the high number of storms during the last eight out of 10 years.
"We expect this active tropical cyclone era to continue this year and to likely span the next two or three decades," Klotzbach said.
In his last update on June 1, Gray predicted 15 named storms, with eight of those becoming hurricanes. He and the team thought four would become major hurricanes.
With eight already history and Tropical Depression 9 predicted to become Irene, this leaves 11 named storms to go until the season ends Nov. 30. Of the eight that already developed, two were hurricanes. Both developed into major hurricanes.
In recent years, Gray and his team made predictions for August, September and October.
'We are continually improving our forecasts to provide specific monthly forecasts," Gray said.
For August, he predicts, five named storms, three hurricanes and one intense hurricane. In September, he predicts five named storms, four hurricanes and two intense hurricanes will develop. He predicts October will see three named storms, two hurricanes and one intense hurricane.
While Gray and his team don't predict the probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean, he said it was above average. For the U.S. coastline, he put the probability at 77 percent for the remainder of the season.
He said the long-term probability average stands at 52 percent. The long-term average for the number of storms stands at 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.
Stripling said the forecast calls for Tropical Depression 9 to continue on its northwest track.
"This will take it north of our latitude in 48 hours," he said.
As of the 11 a.m. update, Tropical Depression 9 is centered is at 16.4 degrees north latitude and 37.3 degrees west longitude.
The storm has winds of 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph.
It is moving to the west-northwest at 18 mph.
The barometric pressure stands at 1010 millibars or 29.81 inches.
Stripling said the territory should expect swells over the weekend pushing in this direction from Tropical Storm Harvey. It is now located about 385 miles east of Bermuda.
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