The noted Colorado State University forecast team expects an above-average Atlantic hurricane season and may raise its prediction of 13 tropical storms and seven hurricanes when it updates its outlook next week, the team's founder Bill Gray said Wednesday.
La Nina cool-water conditions in the Pacific and higher sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic are contributing to enhanced conditions for hurricane activity, Gray told Reuters at the U.S. National Hurricane Conference.
"We're expecting an above average season," Gray said. "The big question we have is, are we going to raise the numbers from our December forecast? We might."
"We're not going to lower the numbers," he said.
The average hurricane season produces about 10 tropical storms and six hurricanes — a standard that was blown out of the water in the record-busting season of 2005, when 28 storms formed, including the hurricane that swamped New Orleans, Katrina.
The Colorado State team issues forecasts several times a year. In December, it said it expected the 2008 season starting June 1 to produce 13 tropical storms, of which seven would become hurricanes and three would be major hurricanes with winds of at least 111 miles per hour.
Gray said La Nina, a cooling of waters in the eastern Pacific that can enhance conditions for hurricane activity in the Atlantic, will be "on the cold side."
"Also, the sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic particularly off Iberia and off northwest Africa, they are very warm, much like they were at this time in 1995 and 2005 when we had very active seasons," he said.