With Gustav degraded to a tropical depression and three tropical storms lined up across the Atlantic, the Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane team said Tuesday it expects five named storms, including four hurricanes, two of them intense (Category Three or greater), to form this month.

Hurricane activity in June and July was at near-record levels and August had slightly above-average activity, according to CSU forecaster Phil Klotzbach. Above-average Atlantic basin sea surface temperatures and near neutral El Nino-Southern Oscillation conditions will lead to a “much more active than average” hurricane season, he said.

Last month the CSU team increased the number of storms it said would form in the Atlantic Basin this year, forecasting a total of 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them intense, to form by Nov. 30, the end of the hurricane season (see Daily GPI, Aug. 6). CSU forecasters had previously called for a well above-average hurricane season this year with 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin (see Daily GPI, June 4).

Most forecasters have called for an active or above-average 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. Last week WSI Corp. reiterated its tropical forecast, calling for 15 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four of them Category Three or greater (see Daily GPI, Aug. 27). Other forecasters predicting an above-average hurricane season have included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (see Daily GPI, Aug. 8) and MDA EarthSat (see Daily GPI, April 16). AccuWeather.com meteorologist Joe Bastardi said the East Coast will be at greater risk this season even though he said the number of named storms would be about average, and Gulf of Mexico interests can expect seven to 10 days with at least the threat of weather disruptions (see Daily GPI, May 13).

In June the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expected a total of 11.3 million bbl of crude oil and 78 Bcf of natural gas to be shut in in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) during the 2008 hurricane season (see Daily GPI, June 12). The prediction was based on the results of a Monte Carlo hurricane outage simulation, which is conditioned on how NOAA’s most recent predictions for the level of Atlantic Basin hurricane activity compare to historical activity, the EIA said. A report issued this summer by energy consultant IHS Inc. said the 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).

Gustav strengthened to hurricane status twice last week before slamming ashore near Cocodrie, LA on Monday morning. Now downgraded to a tropical depression, Gustav continues to pour rain over Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A potential followup to Gustav, Tropical Storm Hanna, was northeast of Cuba’s eastern point with 70 mph sustained winds. The National Hurricane Center forecasts Hanna to move northwest, passing over the Bahamas before making landfall somewhere on the Florida, Georgia or South Carolina coast on Friday. Tropical Storm Ike is in the mid-Atlantic, carrying 60 mph winds and moving west at 18 mph. Still gathering strength near Africa’s west coast is Tropical Storm Josephine, the season’s tenth named storm, which already packs sustained winds of 40 mph.

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.

In July Hurricane Dolly brought heavy rain and wind speeds of more than 100 mph when it made landfall at South Padre Island near Brownsville, TX. Minerals Management Service reported shut-ins of more than 600 MMcf/d of gas and 58,000 b/d of oil, along with 62 evacuated platforms and mobile drilling rigs associated with Dolly, which weakened to a tropical storm and then to a tropical depression as it passed into Mexican territory near Laredo, TX. Also in July, Tropical Storm Cristobal stayed in the Atlantic as it traveled northeast, eventually being downgraded to an extratropical depression as it moved into cooler North Atlantic waters.

Tropical Storm Edouard, the fifth named storm of the year, came ashore in the Sabine Pass area of southeast Texas on Aug. 5. It never developed enough to attain hurricane status, but it remained a strong tropical storm while coming ashore with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph before weakening into a tropical depression and dissipating in north-central Texas. Tropical Storm Fay moved very slowly up Florida’s east coast before crossing the state to dump heavy rains onto Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas in late August.

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