With four named storms already charted this year, including two hurricanes, WSI Corp. has increased by one the number of named storms and hurricanes that it predicts will form in the Atlantic Basin this year, calling now for 15 named storms and nine hurricanes, including four intense hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) to form.

The forecast numbers are significantly higher than the 1950-2007 averages of 9.7 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes for the season which extends through Nov. 30.

Previously WSI forecasters had said they expected 14 named storms, eight hurricanes with four of them intense hurricanes (see Daily GPI, July 2). The slight increase is primarily due to increasing sea surface temperature anomalies in portions of the Atlantic Basin that play a role in storm development and intensity, WSI said.

"Since 1995 most tropical seasons have been more active than the long-term averages due to warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures. We do not see any reason why this active regime will not continue in 2008," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "The recent La Nina event [cooling ocean surface temperatures off the western coast of South America] should leave behind a wind shear environment that is favorable for the development of tropical systems in the summer and fall of 2008. Recent warming in the Atlantic Basin has resulted in an increase in the forecast numbers from our statistical model, so we have increased our official numbers slightly. The relatively early occurrence of the first intense hurricane, Bertha, is also usually an omen for a very active season."

Tropical Storm Arthur, the first tropical storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, developed May 31 in the western Caribbean Sea and wasted little time in moving ashore over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where it was downgraded to a tropical depression on June 1. Bertha meandered through much of the Atlantic between July 3 and July 20, threatening Bermuda and twice becoming a hurricane, but never threatened gas or oil interests.

On Tuesday the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Dolly had reached hurricane strength and was over the south-central GOM and was tracking to make landfall near the Texas-Mexico border some time Wednesday (see related story). Tropical Storm Cristobal was moving northeast at 21 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, about 280 miles south-southwest of Halifax, NS, and was expected to begin losing its tropical characteristics soon, Accuweather.com forecasters said.

Most forecasters this year have called for an active or above-average Atlantic hurricane season. Last month Colorado State University forecasters maintained their earlier forecast, which called for a well above-average hurricane season this year with 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin (see Daily GPI, June 4).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said projected climate conditions point to a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year (see Daily GPI, May 27). The outlook indicates a 60-70% chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes, NOAA said.

MDA EarthSat forecasters also said the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be busier than average but quieter than last year (see Daily GPI, April 16). MDA EarthSat forecasters said 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense or major hurricanes are likely to form during the Atlantic hurricane season.

AccuWeather.com meteorologist Joe Bastardi said 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 GOM interests can expect seven to 10 days with at least the threat of weather disruptions (see Daily GPI, May 13).

Using NOAA data and its own storm tracking tool, forecasting network WeatherBug said it expects 10-12 named storms and an above-average Atlantic hurricane season (see Daily GPI, May 30).

Last month energy consultant IHS Inc. issued a report that said average impact on U.S. oil and natural gas production from GOM hurricanes over a 45-year period was "relatively modest" and the impact on energy supplies "typically short-lived" (see Daily GPI, June 5).

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