FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Continued warming of the ocean will spur high hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin this season and increase the probability of a storm moving inland, forecasters say.
An updated forecast by William Gray and his team at Colorado State University, released a day before the official start of hurricane season, predicts 15 named storms, with eight of those becoming hurricanes. Four of the hurricanes are expected to be intense, with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.
An earlier forecast predicted a total of 13 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which were expected to be intense.
"We have adjusted our forecast upward from our early April forecast and now expect tropical cyclone activity to be about 170% of the average seasonal activity," said Gray, an atmospheric science professor.
The long-term average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year. Tropical storms get names once they reach 40 mph. A storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph.
The official forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released earlier this month, predicted that there would be 15 named storms, of which nine would become hurricanes.
Continued warming of the Atlantic Ocean and the decreased likelihood of an El Niño this summer and fall prompted the team to revise its prediction upward, forecaster Philip Klotzbach said.
The team also said there is a 77% chance of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the United States this year. The long-term average is 52%.
The forecast said the probability of an intense hurricane hitting the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, is 59%, compared with the long-term average of 31%. For the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, Texas, the chance is 44%, compared with the long-term average of 30%.
In the last 10 years, the Atlantic Basin has experienced 137 named storms, 77 hurricanes and 38 major hurricanes. During that period, only six of the 38 major Atlantic basin hurricanes crossed the U.S. coastline In 2004, three major hurricanes made landfall.
Gray and his team will issue more updates on Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and Oct. 3.
* Table extracted From Colorado State University's 2005 Extended Range Forecast