The last 10 years have seen mostly above-normal hurricane seasons in the Atlantic and this year won’t be any different, the U.S. government’s weather watchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday.

NOAA’s forecast for an active hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, follows on the heels of last year’s destructive and historic hurricane season. Ivan, which was the worst for the oil and gas industry in the last 50 years, barreled down the eastern border of the Central Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 15, 2004, destroying seven platforms and causing significant damage to 24 other platforms. Seventeen underwater pipelines with diameters greater than 10 inches were damaged.

While Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne did not impact the Gulf producing area, they caused extensive damage in Florida and to a lesser extent to other southeastern states.

“NOAA’s prediction for the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season is for 12 to 15 tropical storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce and NOAA administrator, at a news conference in Bay St. Louis, MS.

“Forecaster confidence that this will be an active hurricane season is very high,” Lautenbacher said. There is a 70% probability of an above-normal season. The actual storms in 2004 exceeded NOAA’s predictions. The agency had predicted 12-15 named tropical storms and there were 15; it predicted 6-8 hurricanes and there were nine; it predicted 2-4 of the hurricanes would be major and six of them were major. In a normal year there would 10 storms, including six hurricanes, and two would be major.

NOAA’s forecast for this year tallied with one issued last month by Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, who estimated seven hurricanes, three of them intense in 2005 (see Daily GPI, April 4).

NOAA’s Atlantic hurricane outlook reflects an expected continuation of above-average activity that began in 1995. Since that time all but two Atlantic hurricane seasons have been above-normal. An update to the Atlantic hurricane outlook will be issued in early August just prior to the season’s historical peak from late August through October.

In contrast to the Atlantic, a below-normal hurricane season is expected in the Eastern and Central Pacific. NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific hurricane season, also released Monday, calls for 11-15 tropical storms, with six to eight becoming hurricanes of which two to four may become major hurricanes. Two or three tropical cyclones are projected for the Central Pacific.

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane outlook is a joint product of scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, Hurricane Research Division and National Hurricane Center.

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