Storm front: U.S. forecasts more hurricanes

Hurricane Emily Slams Into Yucatan Peninsula
A computer-generated NOAA satellite illustration shows Hurricane Emily in the Gulf of Mexico, right, and Tropical Storm Eugene off western Mexico on July 19, 2005.Noaa / Getty Images
/ Source: news services

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season will be worse than previously expected, with 18 to 21 tropical storms and nine to 11 hurricanes through November, the U.S. government forecast on Tuesday.

“Although we have already seen a record-setting seven tropical storms during June and July, much of the season’s activity is still to come,” Gerry Bell, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist, told reporters.

In May, NOAA predicted the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season would be above normal, with 12 to 15 tropical storms and seven to nine hurricanes.

The season, which runs from June 1-Nov. 30, already has seen seven named storms, two of them hurricanes. That means the remainder of the season could see 11 to 14 more storms, including seven to nine more hurricanes, Weather Service Director David Johnson said at a briefing.

"This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record,” Johnson said, “and will be the ninth above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the last 11 years."

The most active hurricane season was in 1933, where there were 21 storms, followed by 1995, where there were 19 storms.

Private forecaster eyes Carolinas
NOAA officials said they could not predict how many of the storms would hit the U.S. coast. The season typically peaks in August.

However, Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with private forecasting company AccuWeather, predicted most of the remaining storms this year will take a more easterly path than the June and July storms that entered the Gulf of Mexico.

“The most action will be from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15 along the Eastern Seaboard. I’m targeting the Carolinas for the worst,” Bastardi said. “Also, there will be (landfalls) in New England and the Florida coast.”

Tropical disturbances and storms often form off the west coast of Africa, then move west toward the Caribbean and the United States as they strengthen.

In early July, Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Pensacola, Fla., causing losses estimated as high as $5 billion. Later in the month, Hurricane Emily made landfall in the Gulf Coast about 75 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 2004 there were tropical storms, of which nine became hurricanes. Last year's storms cost 117 lives in Florida and damaged or destroyed one in five Florida homes. Property losses were estimated at $42 billion.

Factors cited
Bell said a combination of warmer waters, low wind shear and low pressure, as well as the jet stream, favor storm formation.

Hurricanes derive their energy from warm water. The sea surface is two to three degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, Bell noted.

Wind shear, a change in wind direction with altitude, can suppress these storms and lack of shear allows them to form. The jet stream is in place to guide disturbances moving off the coast of Africa, he added.

The increased activity is due to cyclical conditions, not global
warming, NOAA officials said. Hurricane activity was low in the 1980s and early 1990s and a more active cycle of hurricanes is now under way, Bell said.

“It’s certainly reasonable to expect above-normal hurricane seasons for the next decade or perhaps even longer,” he said. “It’s not a matter of
if more hurricanes are going to hit the coast, it’s simply a matter of

Global warming debate
A study published Sunday in the science journal Nature said hurricanes have become more destructive during the last 30 years and their intensity could increase as a result of global warming.

NOAA said its detailed hurricane records only date back to 1945, which means it lacks enough data to determine if there is any link to global warming.

“We’re not convinced that global warming is playing an important role yet, or if at all, in this era of increased activity,” Bell said.