The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season might not be as active as the 2010 season, but it is likely to create an above-average number of named storms, and there will be a significantly above-average chance of a major hurricane (Category Three or greater) entering the Caribbean or making landfall in the United States, forecasters at WSI Corp. said Wednesday.

"Although there is significant uncertainty at this long lead time, we believe that El Nino conditions are unlikely, given the current upper ocean heat content anomalies in the tropical Pacific...we do not expect to see El Nino conditions reemerge in 2011," the WSI forecasters said in an extended-range forecast. "At this point, we are uncertain whether La Nina conditions or neutral conditions are more likely for the 2011 hurricane season. Sea surface temperatures in the far North Atlantic remain at record warm levels, indicating that the active phase of the thermohaline circulation and positive phase of the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation is expected to continue."

WSI's extended forecast calls for 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them intense, to form in the Atlantic basin next year. A total of 19 named storms formed in 2010, with 12 of them becoming hurricanes, including five intense hurricanes (see Daily GPI, Dec. 1). The long-term (1950-2009) averages for the Atlantic hurricane season are 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two intense hurricanes; the 1995-2009 averages are 14/eight/four.

There is a 62% probability that at least one major hurricane will track into the Caribbean in 2011, compared with a 42% average over the last century, WSI said. The forecasters said there is a 48% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle (compared with a 30% average over the last century) and a 49% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast (compared with a 31% average over the last century).

Short-term weather patterns, including the position of the jet stream and the tendency of this year's tropical storms to form in the extreme eastern Atlantic, helped to keep many of 2010's storms away from the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

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