April 9, 2008 — Look for a hurricane season well above average, said hurricane forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University Wednesday.
The team anticipates 15 named storms will form in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. They predict eight will become hurricanes. Of those eight, four are expected to develop into intense or major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or more.
"We are calling for a very active hurricane season this year, but not as active as the 2004 and 2005 seasons," Klotzbach said in a news release.
Long-term averages stand at 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.
The hurricane forecast team predicts tropical cyclone activity in 2008 will be 160 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2005, the year of 28 record-breaking named storms and 15 hurricanes, witnessed tropical cyclone activity that was about 275 percent of the average season.
"Current oceanic and atmospheric trends indicate that we will likely have an active Atlantic basin hurricane season," Gray said.
This is Gray's 25th year forecasting hurricanes at Colorado State University.
Jacqueline Heyliger, deputy director at the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said that residents should be prepared for disasters year round because earthquakes, tsunamis and other disasters can hit at any time.
However, she said that with the start of hurricane season coming fast, residents should get ready.
"Start trimming your bushes and securing your roof," she said.
She said that residents should also make sure their hurricane shutters are in good repair and their generators are in good working order.
The team said that current conditions in the Atlantic basin are quite favorable for an active hurricane season. The current sea surface temperature pattern in the Atlantic — prevalent in most years since 1995 — is a pattern typically observed before very active seasons.
Also, a weak Azores high will likely promote weaker-than-normal trade winds over the next few months. This will enhance warm sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic.
Additionally, the team expects neutral or weak La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific, which, combined with predicted warmth in the north and tropical Atlantic, is a recipe for enhanced Atlantic basin hurricane activity. These factors are similar to conditions that occurred during the 1950, 1989, 1999, and 2000 seasons. The average of these four seasons had well above-average activity, and Klotzbach and Gray predict the 2008 season will have activity in line with the average of these four years.
The team also predicted above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean. They do not put a percentage on this prediction.
Klotzbach said that based on the latest forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69 percent compared with the 20th-century average of 52 percent.
They predict a 45 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula. The long-term average is 31 percent.
And they forecast a 44 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville. The long-term average is 30 percent.
"The United States was quite fortunate over the last two years in that we had only one hurricane landfall — Humberto in 2007," Klotzbach said. "None of the four major hurricanes that formed in 2006 and 2007 made U.S. landfall."
The Colorado State hurricane forecast team cautioned against reading too much into the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 when the Florida and Gulf coasts were ravaged by four hurricanes that made landfall each year. Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne caused devastating damage in 2004 followed by Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.
"The activity of these two years was unusual, but within the natural bounds of hurricane variation," Gray said.
The hurricane team's forecasts are based on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions -such as El Nino, sea surface temperatures and sea level pressures that preceded active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons.
The team will issue seasonal updates of its 2008 Atlantic basin hurricane activity forecast on June 3, Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and Oct. 1. The August, September and October forecasts will include separate forecasts for each of those months.
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