April 1, 2005 With only two months to go until the official start of the 2005 hurricane season, Colorado State University hurricane forecaster William Gray said Friday he expects a significantly above average season.
" We expect this year to continue the trend witnessed over the last decade of above-average hurricane seasons. We anticipate tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin in 2005 will be about 135 percent of the long-term average," Gray said in a news release.
Gray expects 13 named storms to brew up during the June 1 through Nov.30 hurricane season, with seven of them becoming hurricanes. Three of those hurricanes are expected to reach intense status with winds over 111 mph. This is an increase over his December 2004 prediction, which called for 11 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense storms.
The average runs 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.
While Gray doesn't put numbers on the probability of a hurricane hitting the Caribbean, he said he expects the chance of one striking somewhere in the Caribbean to be above average.
He estimated the probability of major hurricane making landfall in the United States to be about 140 percent of average.
He put the probability figure for the entire U.S. coastline at 73 percent. The average for the last century ran 52 percent.
For the U.S. east coast, including the Florida peninsula, he said the probability ran 53 percent. The average for the last century was 31 percent.
He said there was a 41 percent chance that a hurricane would hit the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, Texas. Last century's average sits at 30 percent.
Gray said the storm seasons spanning 1995 to 2004 comprised the most active 10 consecutive hurricane years on record. He said he believes that 2005 will follow this active trend. Gray and his team said they believe that the United States is in a new, multi-decade era for increased storm activity.
"We expect this active tropical cyclone era to continue this year and to span the next two or three decades," team member Philip Klotzbach said in the release.
Gray said that until last year, the United States had been very lucky over the past four decades because very few major hurricanes made landfall in Florida and along the East Coast.
"The 2004 hurricane season was an unusual year, and residents along the East Coast should not expect the high number of land falling major hurricanes or the unprecedented level of destruction to be the norm for this or future years,"Gray said.
While Gray said residents living on the East Coast and along the coast should always be prepared for a storm, a local official said Virgin Islands residents should do the same.
"Start doing it now," Harold Baker said.
Baker, the director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said residents should begin stocking hurricane supplies, developing an emergency plan for their families and cleaning up debris around their yard.
He reminded construction contractors that they need to develop a plan for securing materials at their work sites.
Gray said that during the last 10 years 137 named storms, 77 hurricanes and 38 major hurricanes formed in the Atlantic basin. During that period, including 2004 where three major hurricanes made landfall, only six of the 38 major Atlantic basin hurricanes crossed the U.S. coastline. He said that based on historical averages, about one in three major hurricanes comes ashore in
the United States.
"Over the last four decades the United States is still well behind the longer-term century average," Gray said.
Gray said that major hurricanes account for about a quarter of all named storms but typically cause about 80 to 85 percent of overall hurricane destruction.
Gray said he and his team looked at the possible development of an El Nino in the Pacific Ocean for the upcoming year. This could reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes occurring during the 2005 season. However, after weeks of close observation, Gray said that it's unlikely an El Nino will form.
"If the next few months verify our beliefs about the lack of significant El Nino conditions, it is likely that we will be raising our forecast numbers in our coming May 31 and Aug. 5 forecast updates. As it stands today, conditions in the Atlantic are very favorable for an active hurricane season," Klotzbach said.
The Colorado State forecast team does not attribute changes in recent or projected Atlantic basin hurricane activity to human-induced global warming.
Gray and his team will issue seasonal updates of their 2005 Atlantic basin hurricane forecast on May 31, Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and Oct. 3. The August, September and October seasonal updates also will include the team's August only, September-only and October-only predictions.
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