for National Geographic News
Only six Atlantic hurricanes are likely to form this summer, making the 2009 hurricane season a little less active than recent years, forecasters at Colorado State University said today.
Twelve named tropical storms will form in the Atlantic Basin—which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea—during hurricane season (June 1 and November 30), meteorologists Phil Klotzbach and William Gray predicted.
That's down from the average of 17 named storms seen in each of the past five summers.(See hurricane photos.)
Of those dozen storms, six will develop into hurricanes, which have sustained winds of at least 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour.
Klotzbach and Gray suspect two of the storms will become major hurricanes, which have winds faster than 110 miles (170 kilometers) an hour.
The meteorologists base their forecast on cooler water temperatures in the Atlantic.
They also think hurricanes could be suppressed by an El Niño event over the Pacific Ocean. Previous El Niños have caused upper-level winds, or wind shear, which inhibit hurricane formation, to form over the Atlantic.
The prediction was good news to Rusty Pfost, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Miami.
"I hope they're right," Pfost told National Geographic News.
"I'd like to have something resembling normal this summer. I'm tired of above-average seasons."
In a prepared statement, Klotzbach said that despite the possibility of fewer hurricanes, there's still a better-than-even chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall somewhere between Texas and Maine.
The National Weather Service's Pfost recalled that Hurricane Andrew—the third-most powerful hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S.—formed during the otherwise quiet summer of 1992.
"The main thing to remember," Pfost said, "is that it only takes one storm to have a bad season."
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