2008 Hurricane Season Will Be "Well Above Average"

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Gray acknowledged, however, that CSU forecasters "haven't done too well with our forecasts for the last couple of seasons."

(Read about last year's off-target forecasts.)

Gray and Klotzbach predicted 17 named storms for the 2007 season, but only 14 formed. A 15th tropical storm formed in May 2007, several weeks before the official start of the season.

The less-than-expected activity last year was caused by a high-pressure system that formed off the East Coast late in the season, Gray added.

CSU and other forecasters will be issuing updated forecasts starting on June 3.

Big "If"

Meteorologist Joe Bastardi of AccuWeather said he predicts 12 or 13 tropical storms will form and produce three or four hurricanes and one major hurricane.

That's fewer storms than the CSU forecasters predict but still above-average activity, Bastardi said.

Keith Blackwell is a meteorologist at the Coastal Weather Research Center at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

He sees important indications that the summer of 2008 could be stormier than last year, he told National Geographic News.

Blackwell noted that water temperatures are well above normal for this time of year off Cape Verde on the west coast of Africa.

Hurricanes draw their energy from warm ocean water, and some of the worst hurricanes in history have started as storms off Cape Verde.

Other conditions are also in place that could reduce the upper-level winds over the Atlantic, which can prevent a hurricane from strengthening.

"It does look like it's shaping up for an active season, if these features remain in place for the next few months," Blackwell said.

"But that's a big 'if.'"

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