Dec. 3, 2004 With Tropical Storm Otto, the last-day-of-hurricane-season storm that formed Tuesday, now dissipated into the history books, Colorado State University hurricane forecaster William Gray Friday came out with his 2005 prediction.
"We believe that 2005 will continue the trend of enhanced major hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin," Gray said in a news release.
He predicts 11 named storms will form during the June 1 through Nov. 30 hurricane season. He expects six of those storms to become hurricanes, with three becoming major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more. Gray said those numbers put it at 115 percent of an average season.
The long-term average stands at 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.
The 2004 hurricane season produced 15 named storms, nine hurricanes and six intense hurricanes. He said that was 233 percent of an average season.
In 2004, Florida and the Caribbean islands were devastated by four landfalling hurricanes, three of which were major storms. Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan caused extensive damage in Florida.
Although not technically making U.S. landfall, Hurricane Alex caused damage along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and Hurricane Gaston caused some damage in South Carolina. Additionally, tropical storms Bonnie, Hermine, Ivan and Matthew made landfall along the U.S. coastline in 2004. Gray said this ties a record for most U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones in a single season.
In the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Frances brushed by to the north on Aug. 31. Hurricane Ivan went 250 miles south of St. Croix on Sept. 8. Tropical Storm Jeanne caused problems on Sept. 15.
Philip Klotzbach, a member of Gray's team, said the number of storms in 2004 wasn't so unusual. Rather, it was favorable hurricane steering conditions that drove so many storms from the deep tropics across the Caribbean and into Florida.
"We do not anticipate this same optimal combination of hurricane formation and steering conditions to be present in 2005. Next year's landfall numbers are likely to be significantly less than what occurred in 2004," Klotzbach said.
The team is basing its forecast on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions – El Nino, sea surface temperatures and sea level pressure – that preceded active or inactive past seasons provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons.
Gray said the current weak El Nino coupled with unusually warm tropical and North Atlantic sea surface temperatures are similar to those that occurred in the fall before the 1952, 1958, 1970 and 2003 season. The following hurricane seasons all had slightly above average activity.
Gray and his team do not predict the probability of a storm hitting a Caribbean islands, but said there is a 69 percent chance of a major hurricane-making landfall somewhere along the U.S. coast. The long-term average is 52 percent.
This is the 22nd year that Gray and his team issued hurricane season predictions. They will update them in April, the end of May, early August, early September and early October.
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