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Forecasters Predict Above-Average 2009 Hurricane Season

Dec. 10, 2008 — With the mopping up from Hurricane Omar just barely completed, Colorado State University hurricane forecasters Phil Klotzbach and William Gray are out with their 2009 hurricane season prediction.
The team's first extended-range forecast for the 2009 hurricane season anticipates 14 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. They predict that seven of the 14 storms will become hurricanes. Of those seven, they expect three to develop into intense hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.
The long-term average stands at 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.
"We're forecasting an above-average season based on our early assessment of factors that influence an active hurricane season, including warm Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and the likely absence of El Nino conditions," Klotzbach said in a news release issued Wednesday.
That said, Klotzbach added that there is a large amount of uncertainty with the early-December prediction because it's issued seven months before the start of the hurricane season.
The 2008 hurricane season saw 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.
No one at the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency could be reached for comment.
The Wednesday forecast is based on an extended-range, early-December statistical-prediction scheme that uses 58 years of data. This statistical model explains a considerable amount of hurricane variability in hindcasts issued from 1950 to 2007. Over this time period, the team correctly forecast above- or below-average seasons in 45 out of 58 years. The forecast model also successfully predicted an above-average season in 2008.
The hurricane team's forecasts are based on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions — such as El Nino and tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures — that preceded active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons.
"We are currently in an active period for Atlantic hurricane activity," Gray said. "This active cycle in the Atlantic basin is expected to continue for another decade or two, at which time we should enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the periods from 1970 to 1994 and 1901 to 1925."
The team predicts above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.
The Colorado State hurricane forecast team also predicts a 63-percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline in 2009. The long-term average probability is 52 percent.
For the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall is 39 percent. For the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, the probability is 38 percent.
The report marks the 26th year of the CSU hurricane-forecasting team, which is led by Klotzbach and Gray.
The team will issue seasonal updates of its 2009 Atlantic-basin hurricane-activity forecast on April 7, June 2, Aug. 4, Sept. 2 and Oct. 1. The August, September and October forecasts will include separate forecasts for August, September and October activity.
The entire forecast report is available online.
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