Joining the ranks of forecasters who are slashing their 2006 Atlantic hurricane activity predictions, Andover, MA-based WSI Corp. downgraded its outlook Wednesday for the second time in two months. WSI said it now expects the tropical season to have 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense hurricanes (Category 3 or greater).

WSI pointed out that while these numbers are still larger than the long-term averages of 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes, they are much smaller than last year’s record numbers. The devastating 2005 season witnessed 27 named storms, 15 hurricanes and seven intense hurricanes. As of the Minerals Management Service’s final report June 19, 2006, a total of 935.7 MMcf/d of Gulf of Mexico natural gas production was still off-line because of damage caused by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005. Since Aug. 26, 2005, a total of 803.6 Bcf of natural gas production has been deferred due to the storms, which equates to just over 22% of the annual gas production from the Gulf (3.65 Tcf).

WSI said its new forecast is “slightly” lower than the company’s original May outlook of 15 named storms, nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes (see Daily GPI, June 1), and its July update of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and four intense hurricanes.

“While we still expect a relatively active year compared to long-term averages, it appears that conditions are in no way similar to last year’s record season,” said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. “Prodigious amounts of Saharan dust over the tropical Atlantic, along with stronger-than-normal westerly shear, appear to be suppressing tropical development this year. On the other hand, tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures are warmer than normal, so we do feel like the season will still run slightly above long-term averages.”

Late last week, Colorado State University (CSU) forecasters William Gray and Philip Klotzbach said they now expect there to be fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic in 2006 than during a normal season (see Daily GPI, Sept. 5).

Based on changing climate signals and below-average activity in the first third of the season, the CSU team is now calling for a total of 13 named storms to form in the Atlantic basin this season. Of these, five are predicted to become hurricanes and two are anticipated to evolve into intense hurricanes (Saffir/Simpson Scale Categories 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. The new forecast is down from the team’s already revised August forecast of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes (see Daily GPI, Aug. 4).

As of Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was still sticking with its revised August forecast of 12 to 15 named storms — of which seven to nine are expected to intensify to hurricanes, including three or four becoming major hurricanes (see Daily GPI, Aug. 9). In late May (see Daily GPI, May 23), NOAA predicted 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become major hurricanes.

©Copyright 2006Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.