GULF COAST — There could be a flurry of storms this year. One forecaster predicted the coming hurricane season would be “very active.” Both the William Gray-Phil Klotzbach team at Colorado State University and the British group Tropical Storm Risk increased the numbers from their December forecasts, and are now calling for 17 named storms and nine hurricanes. Mark Saunders and his team at Tropical Storm Risk expect five tropical storms to hit the U.S. coast, of which two will be hurricanes.
The groups also are predicting a higher likelihood that hurricanes will strike the U.S. coastline, with the Colorado State team calling for a 50% chance that a hurricane will hit Florida. That is up from 31% in an average year, according to wire reports. The team's forecasts are based on global oceanic and atmospheric conditions. The forecast groups say the increased numbers are largely due to a disintegrating El Niño.
A strong El Niño brings heavy winds to Atlantic that knock down storms trying to build. But by January, El Niño forecasters predicted the warming of Pacific Equatorial Waters was waning. "The El Niño conditions present since September 2006 dissipated rapidly during February," Mr Saunders said. "This has increased the expectation since that weak La Niña conditions will occur during the summer."
Only three tropical storms made landfall in 2006, a welcome relief from the previous years, when nearly a dozen hurricanes battered the country. The devastating 2005 season had 28 named storms, 15 of them hurricanes. Four of those hurricanes hit the U.S. coast, the worst among them Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and leveled parts of the Gulf Coast.