Sept. 2, 2005 With all eyes on the still-unfolding tragedy in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, William Gray and team member Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University Friday issued their hurricane prediction update for the rest of the season.
"Unfortunately, we are continuing the bad news by predicting above-average activity for September and October," Gray said in a news release.
He said the season will shape up to be one of the most active seasons on record. Gray said it is already one of the most destructive hurricane seasons.
Gray and his team don't think the total number of named storms will increase from the 20 they predicted Aug. 5. He still predicts that 10 of those named storms will escalate into hurricanes, with six reaching major status with winds over 111 mph.
They predict that September will have five named storms. Four of them will grow to hurricane status, with two of those hurricanes predicted to become major storms.
For October, he and his team call for three named storms, with two becoming hurricanes and one to reach major status.
This news means that Virgin Islands residents must continue to keep their eye on the weather. As of the 11 a.m. update, Tropical Depression 14 grew to Tropical Storm Maria, but the storm is already at a latitude north of the Virgin Islands and will pose no problems for the territory.
However, Walter Snell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, urged residents to keep tabs on the system now brewing far east in the Atlantic Ocean.
"It could go over the area, but the computer models are all over the place," Snell said, stressing that it's far too early to say with any certainty exactly where the storm will track and how strong it will get.
He said it looks like the system could reach tropical storm strength within 24 to 48 hours.
He said some models take it several hundred miles north of the Virgin Islands, while others take it south.
In any event, he said it should reach the region Thursday or Friday.
Looking back, Gray said that so far the 2005 hurricane season has seen 12 named storms, with two of them becoming hurricanes and one reaching intense status.
The long-term average stands at 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.
He said August had five named storms, two hurricanes and one intense hurricane the deadly Katrina. He said that this was about 150 percent of normal hurricane activity for August.
On a yearly basis, Gray said the season has already seen 110 percent of a normal year. Usually, only 33 percent of the hurricanes have developed by this time.
Gray and his team do not predict the probability of a hurricane hitting somewhere in the Caribbean, but put the probability of one hitting the U.S. coastline at 43 percent for September and 15 percent for October. The long-term average for September stands at 27 percent, with October having a 6 percent chance.
Gray said that he believes that until last year, the United States was fortunate in witnessing very few major hurricanes making landfall in Florida and along the East Coast.
He said it was due mainly to a combination of past climate conditions that did not favor major hurricane development or the tracking of these storms across the United States coastline. Additionally, he said a degree of luck was involved since many major hurricanes came close to the United States but veered away. He didn't mention the Caribbean in these remarks.
He said that 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.
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.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.