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Bastardi: This Season's Hurricanes Heading Eastward

The East Coast will be at greater risk this coming hurricane season even though the number of named storms is expected to be about average, and Gulf of Mexico interests can expect seven to 10 days with at least the threat of weather disruptions, AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists said last week.

"Although we are forecasting a total of 12 named storms in 2008, much more important than the forecast storm number are the facts that a relatively high percentage of tropical storms are expected to make landfall and that the major threat area is farther north than normal," said Joe Bastardi, the firm's chief long-range and hurricane forecaster. "We believe at least 40% of named storms will cause tropical storm or hurricane conditions on the U.S. coastline, which is about 1.6 times the norm."

Weakening La Nina conditions and near-normal or below-normal water temperature in most of the tropical breeding grounds of the Caribbean and South Atlantic will reduce the overall number of storms, Bastardi said. However, with warm waters near the North Atlantic coastline, storms may form closer to the coast, resulting in a greater-than-average storm threat on the East Coast from the Carolinas to New England.

"Our forecast is that two or three storms will bring at least tropical storm force winds to the coastline between Florida and New England, including one or two that bring hurricane force winds, and one major hurricane," said Bastardi. "And the Gulf of Mexico will have a normal distribution of tropical cyclone activity, with energy interests experiencing at least seven to 10 days with disruptions or threats of disruptions. Specifically, the forecast is for two or three storms that affect the energy infrastructure in and around the Gulf and bring at least tropical storm force winds to the Gulf Coast, including one or two that bring hurricane force winds."

The forecaster looked at 1985, 1989, 1996 and 1999 as years to compare to this season. In all of these years, major storms hit from the Carolinas northward.

The best chance for early storm development is in the western or central Gulf area, from 90W longitude westward, according to AccuWeather.com. This is primarily due to very warm water in the western and central Gulf, cool water in the western Caribbean, the expected June steering currents in the central Gulf and a drier-than-normal pattern in the northwest Caribbean lasting into July. The hurricane threat will run mainly from mid-August to mid-October and will encompass the entire Gulf and Atlantic areas.

Last month WSI Corp., which already forecast an active 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, upped the ante slightly in an update of its tropical forecast, calling for 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, including four intense hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) to form between June 1 and Nov. 30 (see NGI, April 28). WSI forecasters said an active hurricane season will arise from the continuation of warmer-than-normal Atlantic Ocean temperature anomalies into the summer and fall and the likelihood of a favorable or neutral wind shear environment on the heels of the La Nina event.

WSI's newest forecast numbers were significantly higher than the 1950-2007 averages of 9.7 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes. Last year 15 named storms, six hurricanes and two intense hurricanes, Dean and Felix, were created during the Atlantic hurricane season.

MDA EarthSat forecasters also said the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be busier than average but quieter than last year (see NGI, April 21). MDA EarthSat forecasters said 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense or major hurricanes are likely to form during the coming Atlantic hurricane season.

Weather forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) recently said the U.S. Atlantic basin will likely experience a well above-average hurricane season this year and odds are nearly even that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast (see NGI, April 14). The CSU team's forecast called for 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin, with eight of the storms predicted to become hurricanes, four of them intense or major hurricanes.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have bucked the trend, saying warmer ocean waters could mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes striking the United States this year (see NGI, Jan. 28).

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