Forecasters: Above-average 2011 Atlantic hurricane season

/ Source: staff and news service reports

This year will be an above-average Atlantic hurricane season, with a forecast of 16 named storms forming between June 1 and Nov. 30, Colorado State University researchers predicted Wednesday.

That’s one storm less than what the team forecast in its early December prediction.

Nine of the storms are expected to turn into hurricanes, with five developing into major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater, CSU forecasters said.

"We expect that anomalously warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures combined with neutral tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures will contribute to an active season," said Phil Klotzbach of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project. "We have reduced our forecast slightly from early December due to a combination of recent ocean warming in the eastern and central tropical Pacific and recent cooling in the tropical Atlantic."

A normal season, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has nine to 12 named storms, of which five to seven reach hurricane strength and one to three become major hurricanes.

The Colorado hurricane team's annual predictions are intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season, not an exact measure.

The team's probabilities for a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S.

  • A 72 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline (the long-term average probability is 52 percent).
  • A 48 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31 percent).
  • A 47 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas (the long-term average is 30 percent).

Klotzbach said the "primary uncertainty" about CSU's latest forecast stemmed from the possible warming of Pacific sea surface temperatures due to the El Nino weather phenomenon, which tends to lower the threat of storm activity in the tropical Atlantic.

"Right now we don't think one (El Nino) is going to develop but there are some signs that it (the Pacific) certainly has warmed quite a bit and there is that potential," Klotzbach said.

"In June, if El Nino really were to look like it's going to develop we'd have to lower our forecast quite a bit." he added.

The team will issue forecast updates on June 1 and Aug. 3.