Hurricane Forecast: "No Letup" in Weeks Ahead

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
September 2, 2008
Just as Hurricane Gustav was dissipating and three tropical storms were brewing in the Atlantic, forecasters predicted that September hurricane activity would be well above normal for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.

Five named storms should form this month, according to Colorado State University forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach. That tally includes newly named tropical storm Josephine but not Hurricane Gustav or tropical storms Hannah and Ike, as they were named in August.

Of the five predicted storms, four are expected to become hurricanes, meaning they would have winds of at least 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour. Two are forecast to become major hurricanes—Category 3 or higher, with winds exceeding 110 miles (177 kilometers) an hour.

Low atmospheric pressure and warm seas encourage storms, and both are present now in the tropical Atlantic Basin—which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico (map)—according to Klotzbach.

"We have seen some of the lowest pressure readings on record in the tropical Atlantic during August," Klotzbach said in a statement. "Water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic remain at above-average values.

"A combination of these two factors typically leads to an active September."

Jeff Masters, director of the private weather forecasting service Weather Underground, said he agrees with the prediction of an active September.

"I don't see any letup over the next two weeks," Masters said. "There could be two to three active named storms all the time in the Atlantic for the next two weeks."

In April, Colorado State's Klotzbach and Gray had forecast a "well above average" 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. They pointed out in the new statement that June and July were also very active, spawning three named storms: Hurricane Bertha, Hurricane Dolly, and tropical storm Cristobal.

Including tropical storm Arthur, which formed in May, ahead of the official season, 10 of the 15 named storms forecast in April have already taken shape.

Hanna, Ike, and Josephine

As Hurricane Gustav wanes, forecasters—along with U.S. residents from the eastern Carolinas to the Gulf Coast—are warily watching tropical storms Hanna, Ike, and Josephine.

The three storms formed within the past seven days, bringing to ten the total number of named storms so far in the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1 and will end on November 30.

As of 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, tropical storm Hanna was over the southern Bahamas with winds of about 70 miles (113 kilometers) an hour—just shy of hurricane status.

Hanna is expected to gradually strengthen over the next three days before making landfall on Friday or Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane anywhere from West Palm Beach (map), Florida, north to Charleston (map), South Carolina.

Tropical storm Ike is about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) east of San Juan (map), Puerto Rico, and has winds of about 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour.

The current five-day forecast from the National Hurricane Center says that by Saturday, Ike will have developed into a Category 2 hurricane (with wind speeds of 96 to 110 miles an hour, or 155 to 177 kilometers an hour). Ike could pose a threat anywhere from Jamaica to Cape Canaveral, Florida, according to current models.

Newly formed tropical storm Josephine is just off the west coast of Africa with winds of about 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour. That storm will be in the south-central Atlantic by Friday and is expected to head west-northwest toward the Caribbean, the Gulf ofMexico, or the southern U.S. East Coast.

Willie Drye is author of Storm of the Century: the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, published by National Geographic Books.


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