updated 3/31/2006 8:55:47 AM ET 2006-03-31T13:55:47

This year’s hurricane season will likely be worse than usual, though not as severe as 2005, a U.S. hurricane expert said Thursday.

A record 27 tropical storms formed last year, with seven becoming major hurricanes, including Katrina and three others that hit the United States.

“I think everybody is going to say we’re going to have an above-average season here,” said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

He said the new hurricane season, beginning June 1, would not likely set a new record but the center’s scientists were witnessing a trend of stronger and more frequent storms.

“The research community is telling us that we are in this active period for hurricanes that may very well last another 10 to 20 years,” he said. “And that’s not good news for this region.”

Mayfield joined representatives of 25 countries from the Western Hemisphere at a meeting in Puerto Rico to discuss hurricane preparedness and share data to improve forecasting.

The region has experienced strong hurricanes since 1995, in part because of warm sea surface temperatures, other participants said.

Researchers said they were trying to better understand storm intensity, particularly after last year’s Hurricane Wilma jumped from a mere tropical storm to a whopping Category 5 hurricane within 24 hours.

The National Hurricane Center and National Centers for Environmental Prediction will release their official hurricane forecast on May 22.

The first tropical storm of the 2006 season will be named Alberto.

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