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NOAA: 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season Approaches 'Busiest Ever' Title

As tropical storms continue to pop up in the Atlantic, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Monday that if the final storm name of the season -- Wilma -- is used up, the Greek alphabet will then kick in with Alpha, Beta, Gamma and so forth.

The NHC said this year's Atlantic hurricane season is now the second busiest on record with 20 named storms -- a rank formerly held by the hurricane seasons of 1887 (unnamed storms) and 1995 (Allison to Tanya). Hurricane Vince from early last week was the first storm in the Atlantic Basin to begin with the letter "V" since storms began acquiring names in 1953. Vince was the 11th hurricane of the Atlantic season, which runs through November.

While the 2005 season has had the most named storms, the greatest number of storms in a single season was 21 in 1933 -- 20 years before names were assigned. Hurricane statistics date back to 1851.

NOAA said storms were first named after women from 1953 until 1979, at which point men's and women's names were alternated. Absent from the list are the relatively few names that begin with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z. Names reappear on lists on six-year cycles, unless retired for causing a significant loss of life or property, such as Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all from the 2004 season. The list of names is maintained by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization, of which NOAA is an active member.

Names are bestowed upon tropical cyclones when reaching tropical storm status (with top sustained winds of at least 39 mph) and are maintained when the tropical storm is upgraded to a hurricane (with top sustained winds of 74 mph or higher).

NOAA said Wilma is the next and final name on the 2005 list.

"There is the potential for additional tropical storms and hurricanes to form this season, but it's too early to know exactly where they will develop or if they will affect land," said Scott Kiser, Tropical Cyclone Program manager for the NOAA National Weather Service.

Of the 20 named storms that have formed since the June 1st start of the 2005 hurricane season, five have been major hurricanes. This is far above the average of 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes for a hurricane season and this heightened activity is in line with earlier NOAA projections.

Through the end of the season, NOAA predicts a season total of 18 to 21 named storms of which nine to 11 would become hurricanes, including five to seven major hurricanes of Category Three intensity or greater.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, testified Friday during a House Committee on Science regarding the agency's forecasting before Hurricane Katrina's landfall (see NGI, Oct. 10). The agency also warned that the current period of heightened activity could last another 10 to 20 years.

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