Top U.S. hurricane forecasters maintain 2011 outlook
Hurricane experts predict a 70 percent chance that a hurricane will make landfall in the United States this year.
Wed, Aug 03 2011 at 12:35 PM
HURRICANE SEASON: A satellite captures Hurricane Earl on Sept. 3, 2010. It was the last hurricane to nearly make landfall in the United States. (Photo: NOAA, NASA/Flickr)
MIAMI - The Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team on Wednesday maintained its 2011 Atlantic hurricane season forecast at nine hurricanes, with five of them expected to be major.
The leading storm research team, founded by hurricane forecast pioneer William Gray, said the six-month hurricane season which started on June 1 would likely see 16 tropical storms, unchanged from its June 1 outlook.
"We expect a pretty active season," Gray said in a telephone interview. "Last year was also very active, but hardly anything came over the U.S. We were extremely lucky last year and may not be so lucky this year."
There have been five tropical storms but no hurricanes so far this season, which is now approaching its traditional busy phase from mid-August to October. On Wednesday, Tropical Storm Emily was bearing down on the Dominican Republic and Haiti and threatened to later become a low-level hurricane.
The CSU forecast is generally in line with 2011 season predictions made by other private forecasters.
"Major" storms are Category 3 or above on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and have top winds of more than 110 miles per hour (178 km per hour).
The CSU team saw a 70 percent probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline.
They said there was a 45 percent chance that a major hurricane would make landfall along the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico, where major oil and gas facilities are located. That was slightly lower than the 47 percent probability in its previous forecast.
The U.S. coastline has been spared a direct hit since 2008. Last year, Hurricane Earl, which grew into a Category 4 hurricane, came the closest by approaching to about 100 miles off North Carolina and southern New England in September.
The 2010 season spawned 19 named storms, tying for the third most active season with 1887 and 1995, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Twelve storms grew into hurricanes last year, making it the second-highest season tied with the year 1969.
(Editing by Tom Brown; Editing by David Gregorio)
Copyright 2011 Reuters Environmental Online Report
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