U.S. Water News Online
MIAMI -- The dissipation of the El Nino warm water
phenomenon in the Pacific will contribute to an above-average
Atlantic hurricane season with eight hurricanes, a noted storm
Colorado State University expert William Gray said the season,
which began officially on June 1, will produce a total of 14 tropical
storms, of which three will be major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph
(179 kph) or more.
The prediction would double the number of hurricanes compared with
last year, a season that produced 12 "named" storms but just four
hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Gray's forecast paralleled that of the National Hurricane Center,
which on May 19 projected 11 to 15 tropical storms, six to nine
hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes this year.
Hurricane forecasting is tricky. Last September, Gray issued a
mid-season forecast in which he lowered his forecast to eight storms
for the entire season -- right before a dramatic rise in storm
formation that took the season total to 12.
"The dissipation of El Nino and the anticipated formation of a La
Nina in the Pacific are factors leading to the increase in our May
update," Gray said in a written statement.
El Nino is the periodic warming of Pacific water around the
equator. It brings strong winds in the upper atmosphere that shear
off the tops of nascent cyclones in the Atlantic, dampening
El Nino played a role in suppressing hurricane activity in the
Atlantic last year. Gray's forecasting team said it expects La Nina
cold-water conditions to occur in the Pacific by mid-August, the
beginning of the most active part of the hurricane season.
The circular tropical weather systems that develop into hurricanes
become "tropical storms" and are given names when maximum sustained
winds reach 39 mph (63 kph). When top winds hit 74 mph (119 kph), the
storms become hurricanes.
The season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. But this year
it got off to an early start with the April formation of Ana, which
disappeared harmlessly in the north Atlantic.
On average, the Atlantic season sees 9.6 named storms, 5.9
hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes.
The United States has a higher-than-average probability -- 69
percent -- of being hit by a major hurricane this year, Gray said.
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