for National Geographic News
U.S. coastal residents already on edge because of two powerful and unprecedented July hurricanes are getting bad news todaythe 2005 hurricane season is probably going to be worse than expected.
In May, hurricane forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University predicted eight hurricanes would form this season. Of those storms, four would be major hurricanes, with winds of at least 111 miles an hour (178 kilometers an hour).
Thanks to this summer's storm-friendly climate conditions, however, Gray and Klotzbach now think 10 hurricanes will form, and that six will become major hurricanes. The CSU researchers also think there's a 77 percent probability that a hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coast somewhere between Texas and Maine.
An active 2005 season would follow a decade-long trend of stormy summers. The 2004 seasonduring which four powerful hurricanes struck Floridawas the most expensive on record, costing about 45 billion dollars (U.S.) in damages.
Klotzbach said this year's forecast was increased because conditions are ripe for spawning hurricanes. The ocean water is very warm, and upper-level winds that might prevent storms from forming are minimal.
"All the factors are favorable for hurricane formation," Klotzbach said.
Gray and Klotzbach's new predictions, which were released this morning, are similar to an updated hurricane forecast issued August 2 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA predicts nine to eleven hurricanes, with five to seven of them becoming major storms.
As part of their hurricane forecast, Gray and Klotzbach predict that 20 tropical storms will form this season. When a storm system's strongest winds reach 35 miles an hour (56 kilometers an hour), it is designated a tropical storm and given a name by NOAA's National Hurricane Center.
If the storm continues to strengthen as it moves westward across the Atlantic and its winds reach 74 miles an hour (119 kilometers an hour), it becomes a hurricane.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, but the most active period usually doesn't begin until mid August, and September 10 is considered the peak. During the 2004 season, the first hurricane didn't form until August 3, but the season's eighth named storm formed by August 29.
By contrast, powerful hurricanes have already started roaring off the Atlantic this year, and July 2005 was one of the most unusual months on record. Counting the two tropical storms that developed in June, a total of seven named storms had formed by the end of July.
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