With five named storms already charted this year, including two hurricanes, and Tropical Storm Edouard drenching portions of Texas, the Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane team increased the number of storms it said will form in the Atlantic Basin this year, forecasting a total of 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them intense (Category 3 or greater).

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). The updated forecast increased the number of forecast storms based on warm sea surface temperatures and low sea level pressures observed over the tropical Atlantic in June and July, combined with an active early season in the deep tropics. The long-term (1950-2000) average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.

“The primary concern with our current very active seasonal forecast numbers is the continued ocean surface warming in the eastern and central tropical Pacific,” said CSU forecaster Phil Klotzbach. “Although it seems unlikely at this point, there is a possibility that a weak El Nino could develop by the latter part of the hurricane season. If this happened, it would likely reduce the number of late-season tropical cyclones.”

The CSU team also issued a monthly tropical cyclone activity forecast, which forecast four named storms, three hurricanes and one intense hurricane forming in the Atlantic basin in August, approximately 180% more activity than is seen in the average August. There is a considerably higher-than-average probability of at least one intense hurricane making landfall in the United States during this year’s hurricane season, the team said.

The year’s fifth named storm, Tropical Storm Edouard, came ashore shortly after daybreak Tuesday in the Sabine Pass area of southeast Texas. 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. Edouard is expected to weaken as it moves west over Texas towards Houston. According to the National Hurricane Center, the center of the storm was midway between High Island and Sabine Pass in the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge early Tuesday morning. At 10 a.m. CDT a hurricane watch, which had been posted west of Intracoastal City, LA, to Sargent, TX, was discontinued, as were tropical storm warnings east of Cameron, LA, and west of San Luis Pass, TX. A tropical storm warning remained in effect from Cameron westward to San Luis Pass.

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.

Last month 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 more than 600 MMcf/d shut-ins of gas, 58,000 b/d of oil and 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 last month, 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.

Most forecasters this year have called for an active or above-average Atlantic hurricane season. Last month WSI Corp. increased by one the number of named storms and hurricanes that it predicts will form in the Atlantic Basin this year, calling for 15 named storms and nine hurricanes, including four intense hurricanes to form (see Daily GPI, July 23). 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 was 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.

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 Gulf of Mexico 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).

In June the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expects 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 during the 2008 hurricane season (see Daily GPI, June 12). The prediction is 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 average impact on U.S. oil and natural gas production from Gulf of Mexico 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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