Dec. 6, 2005 With Hurricane Epsilon still swirling around far offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, William Gray and Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University came out with their 2006 hurricane season predictions. They don't think it will be as bad as the one that officially ended Nov. 30.
"It is statistically unlikely that the coming 2006 and 2007 hurricane seasons will have the number of United States landfalling major hurricanes we have seen in the past two years," Gray said.
They said they expect 17 named storms, with nine becoming hurricanes. They think that five will become major hurricanes with winds over 111 mph.
"The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season will be an active one with net tropical cyclone activity about 195 percent of the average season," Klotzbach said.
By comparison, the record-breaking 2005 season was about 263 percent of the average season. It saw 26 named storms, 14 hurricanes and seven intense hurricanes. This forced forecasters to name storms using letters in the Greek alphabet, the first time they've done so. The season also had three tropical depressions that didn't reached named storm status.
The long-term average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.
Don't write Hurricane Epsilon off just yet. Meteorologist Orlando Bermudez at the National Weather Service in San Juan said the territory will get some stormy weather from the hurricane late next week.
After first doing a loop-de-loop, the storm then headed east. The Category 1 hurricane that formed Nov. 29 is now going south. Forecasters think it will then turn to the southwest, which will bring it closer to the Caribbean islands.
"We'll get high seas and periods of moderate to heavy showers," he said.
Gray said, as he has for several years, that this is an era of increased hurricane activity he expects to continue for the next 15 to 20 years.
"But the probability of seeing another two consecutive hurricane seasons with as many landfalling hurricanes as was witnessed in 2004 and 2005 is very low," Gray said.
He said that in 2004 and 2005, a high number of hurricanes combined with favorable steering conditions drove many storms from the deep tropics across the Caribbean into Florida and the Gulf Coast.
The team bases its forecasts on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions – El Nino, sea surface temperatures and sea level pressures – that preceded past active or inactive seasons provide meaningful information about future season trends.
In 2006, Gray and his team expect the continued warm tropical and north Atlantic sea-surface temperatures that have been prevalent since 1995 to continue. Additionally, they think neutral or weak El Nino conditions will prevail.
Gray does not attribute changes in recent and projected Atlantic hurricane activity to human-induced global warming.
"No credible evidence is available or likely will be available soon that will directly associate global surface temperature change to changes in global hurricane frequency and intensity," Gray said.
While the Colorado State University team does not predict landfall probability for Caribbean islands, the team said there was a 64 percent chance of an intense hurricane making landfall along the East Coast. The long-term average is 31 percent.
For the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas, they put the probability at 47 percent. The long-term average is 30 percent.
"The probability of landfall for any one location along the coast is very low and reflects the fact that, in any one season, most United States coastal areas will not feel the effects of a hurricane no matter how active the season," Klotzbach said.
Gray and his team predicted in December 2004 that the 2005 season would have 11 named storms. They expected six of those storms to become hurricanes, with three becoming major hurricanes.
As the year progressed, they upped their numbers until in September, their prediction reached 20 named storms, with 10 of those named storms hurricanes and six reaching major hurricanes.
Colorado State University also announced in the update that Klotzbach is taking the leadership role in predicting hurricanes. Gray has been at the helm of this project for 22 years. He said he is now working more on the global warming issue and synthesizing his many years of hurricane and typhoon studies.
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