for National Geographic News
As the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season gets officially under way today, residents of the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean are bracing for what weather experts are saying will be another storm-filled six months.
Seventeen tropical storms will form in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, between June 1 and November 30, according to Colorado State University (CSU) forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach.
Nine of those storms will strengthen into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 miles (120 kilometers) an hour, the experts say.
The "very active" season will also see as many as five major hurricanes—storms with sustained winds of at least 111 miles (179 kilometers) an hour—the CSU forecasters predict.
One of those major hurricanes will probably make landfall somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic coasts, the scientists say.
Gray and Klotzbach's prediction follows other forecasts that also call for a busy season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 13 to 17 named storms. The NOAA forecasters say that seven to ten of those storms will become hurricanes, and three to five will become major hurricanes.
And a forecast team at North Carolina State University (NCSU) headed by Lian Xie predicts 12 to 14 named storms, eight or nine hurricanes, and four or five major hurricanes. The NCSU forecast team foresees one or two hurricanes making landfall in the U.S.
During an average hurricane season, about ten tropical storms form, spawning six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
If this summer does produce a high number of hurricanes, it will continue a trend of more active seasons that began in 1995.
Hurricane activity in the Atlantic is regulated by cyclical ocean currents that increase and decrease water salinity, said Gray, a pioneer in long-range hurricane forecasting.
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