for National Geographic News
Batten down the hatches: A "very active" Atlantic hurricane season is brewing, and at least one major storm is likely to strike the U.S. coastline, experts said today.
The hurricane forecast team at Colorado State University in Fort Collins anticipates 17 named storms to form in the Atlantic between June 1 and November 30.
Nine of the named storms will become hurricanes, five of them major hurricanes with sustained winds greater than 111 miles (178 kilometers) an hour.
And there's a 74 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline. The long-term average is 52 percent.
"I'll be very surprised if this is not an above-average season," said William Gray, who leads the forecast team.
"We Do Bust"
Last year, Gray's team and the U.S. government issued forecasts for an active hurricane season. The forecast ratcheted up the nerves of U.S. residents still rattled from the unprecedented 2005 hurricane season that included Hurricane Katrina.
Instead 2006 was a relative dud: Five hurricanes formed, but none hit the U.S. coast.
"El Niño suddenly came on in August last year, and it caused the season to be much less active than we had expected," Gray said.
El Niño is a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that influences global weather patterns, including an increase in upper-atmospheric winds that can suppress hurricane formation.
(See an interactive feature on how hurricanes form.)
"No one forecast the El Niño and, of course, we do bust in some years," Gray said.
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