While keeping the number of hurricanes it is forecasting below those predicted by several other weather prognosticators, forecasting network WeatherBug said it expects 10-12 named storms and an above-average Atlantic hurricane season.

As many as six of those storms will strengthen into hurricanes, with two to four becoming major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale), WeatherBug said in its 2008 hurricane forecast. The hurricane season began on Sunday (June 1).

According to WeatherBug, an above-average hurricane season falls in line with the cycle occurring in the Atlantic Ocean, which it said is 13 years into an approximate 30-year phase of above-normal water temperatures. La Nina conditions, resulting from cooling waters in the Pacific, create an ideal situation for hurricane development, the forecasting network said. The opposite effect, known as El Nino, creates stronger westerly winds in the upper atmosphere, which prevent tropical weather systems from developing, especially in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean..

“The warmer water temperatures in the Atlantic provide more fuel for hurricane development,” said WeatherBug senior meteorologist Joe Bartosik. “Additionally, the lack of El Nino conditions will allow storms to potentially enter the Gulf and Caribbean. This is not good news for energy companies who should also pay close attention to where high pressure steering currents appear during the season.”

An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes of which two reach major status.

WeatherBug’s team of meteorologists determined this year’s predictions using its storm tracking tool and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which recently said projected climate conditions point to a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year (see NGI, May 26). 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.

Most of the top hurricane forecasters are looking for active storm development. WSI Corp., which already forecast an active 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, upped the ante slightly in an update of its tropical forecast, calling for 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, including four intense hurricanes to form between June 1 and Nov. 30 (see NGI, April 28). WSI forecasters said an active hurricane season will arise from the continuation of warmer-than-normal Atlantic Ocean temperature anomalies into the summer and fall and the likelihood of a favorable or neutral wind shear environment on the heels of the La Nina event.

MDA EarthSat forecasters also said the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be busier than average but quieter than last year (see NGI, April 21). MDA EarthSat forecasters said 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense or major hurricanes are likely to form during the coming Atlantic hurricane season.

Weather forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) recently said the U.S. Atlantic basin will likely experience a well above-average hurricane season this year and odds are nearly even that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast (see NGI, April 14). The CSU team’s forecast called for 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin, with eight of the storms predicted to become hurricanes, four of them intense or major hurricanes.

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 NGI, May 19).

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