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Bastardi Sees Calmer Hurricane Season for Gulf Area

Fewer named storms will be created during the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season and there will probably be less activity in the Gulf of Mexico than last year, according to AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi.

Bastardi's early hurricane season forecast calls for fewer landfalls in the United States and a lower overall number of named storms compared to the 2008 hurricane season. Most of the tropical storm activity is more likely to occur along the Atlantic seaboard than in the Gulf, he said.

Bastardi's forecast calls for 13 named storms, including eight hurricanes, two of them intense (Category Three or greater) forming in the Atlantic Basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. A total of 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, five of them intense, formed during the 2008 season. Bastardi said he expects four hurricanes to impact the U.S. coast this year -- half as many as in 2008 -- and no major hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland. However, the possibility of a major hurricane making landfall in the United States cannot be ruled out, Bastardi said.

Factors influencing the forecast included a weak La Nina dissipating in the Pacific and the expected orientation of high pressure in the eastern Atlantic, which will produce stronger easterly trade winds across northern Africa than last year. Cooler water temperatures in the deep tropical Atlantic, which can reduce hurricane activity and intensity, were also taken into account, as was a continuing multi-decadal pattern of higher-than-average water temperatures in the Atlantic, Bastardi said.

Bastardi's predictions were generally in agreement with WSI Corp.'s long-term forecast for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which predicted above-average storm activity, though possibly not as much as the 2008 season produced (see NGI, Jan. 5). WSI called for 13 named storms, including seven hurricanes, three of them intense. Those numbers are all larger than the 1950-2008 averages of 9.8 named storms, six hurricanes and 2.5 intense hurricanes, WSI said.

Weather forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) have predicted 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes, including three major hurricanes (see NGI, Dec. 15, 2008). The CSU team also said there is an above-average chance of at least one major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast in 2009.

The 2008 season was "one of the most destructive years on record from a damage perspective," according to CSU forecaster Phil Klotzbach (see NGI, Nov. 24, 2008).

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