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Busier-than-average hurricane season predicted

The 2004 Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season will be busier than average with 14 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes, a weather researcher forecast on Friday.
/ Source: Reuters

The 2004 Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season will be busier than average with 14 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes, a weather researcher forecast on Friday.

“We expect tropical cyclone activity to be about 145 percent of the average season,” Colorado State University tropical storm researcher William Gray said.

Of the eight anticipated hurricanes, three will become intense, with winds over 111 mph, Gray said in his revised forecast for the season that runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The revision added one more named storm than Gray’s team had forecast in December.

The long-term average for the Atlantic-Caribbean season is 9.6 named storms, with 5.9 of those reaching hurricane strength and 2.3 of those becoming intense.

Gray said there was a “considerably higher than average probability” that at least one intense hurricane would strike the United States mainland this year.

“We don’t know when it will happen, but with the large coastal population growth in recent decades, it is inevitable that we will see hurricane-spawned destruction in coming years on a scale many times greater than what we have seen in the past,” he said.

The revised forecast took into account temperature and salinity changes that affect seawater density and in turn change the way the oceans circulate. That change in what is known as the thermohaline circulation has warmed North Atlantic sea surface temperatures and lowered tropical Atlantic surface pressure -- conditions that enhance hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin.

Additionally, forecasters do not expect an El Nino this year, a warming of the equatorial Pacific waters that tends to squelch hurricane formation in the Atlantic.

The full report is on the team's Web site at hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts.