There will be significantly more hurricanes during the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season than there were in 2009, according to Andover, MA-based WSI Corp., which increased its 2010 forecast to include 16 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them intense (Category Three or greater). The 2010 hurricane season, which officially begins on June 1, could be the most active since 2005, WSI said.

WSI had previously forecast that 13 named storms, including seven hurricanes, with three of them intense, would form this year (see NGI, Feb. 1). The revised forecast calls for more storms than the 1950-2009 average of 10 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense hurricanes, and the 1995-2009 average of 14 named storms, eight hurricanes and four intense hurricanes. Nine named storms formed last year, including three hurricanes, two of them intense.

“The 2009 tropical season was the quietest since 1997, as an emerging El Nino event combined with relatively cool tropical Atlantic waters to suppress widespread storm development,” said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. “However, the primary drivers for tropical activity have reversed course this year and the stage appears to be set for a very busy season in 2010. The El Nino event is steadily weakening, resulting in a decrease in tropical Pacific convection and a concomitant decrease in the vertical wind shear that typically acts as a detriment to tropical Atlantic development.

“More importantly, however, eastern and central tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently at record warm levels for April, even warmer than the freakishly active season of 2005. Our forecast numbers are more likely to rise than fall in future forecast updates heading into the season.”

The East Coast from North Carolina’s Outer Banks north to Maine is twice as likely as normal to experience a hurricane this year, WSI said.

“Our model suggests that the threat to the Northeast coast this season is on par with that in Florida and the Gulf coastal states,” Crawford said.

Earlier this month Colorado State University (CSU) forecasters said they expect 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes, four of them intense, to form during the Atlantic hurricane season (see NGI, April 12). According to the CSU forecast there is a 58% probability of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean this year, and a 44% probability of at least one major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast between the Florida Panhandle and Brownsville, TX. Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi has said he expects the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season to be much more active than the 2009 season, with seven named storms, including five hurricanes, making landfall on the U.S. mainland (see NGI, March 15). Bastardi’s forecast calls for 16-18 tropical storms this year, with 15 of them in the western Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has also predicted an active Atlantic hurricane season based on a faltering El Nino (see NGI, Feb. 8).

WSI’s next update on the 2010 tropical season is scheduled to be released May 26.

In a separate forecast, WSI said the Northeast will remain cooler than normal over the next three months, while warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected to dominate the southern and western United States.

A significant warming trend, which WSI said could be expected across the northern and Plains regions by late summer, could prompt a 3-4% year-over-year increase in summer energy usage, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said in a statement issued in conjunction with WSI’s outlook.

“After a warm period in May, especially across the western U.S., we expect a return to cooler-than-normal temperatures across much of the northern U.S. by June, likely lasting into July,” said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. “By late summer, as the impacts of a newly forming La Nina event become more firmly established and the persistent negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation fades, we expect more widespread heat across the northern U.S. and Plains. For the June-August period as a whole, we are forecasting 644 population-weighted cooling degree days, 3-4% more than last year and about 2% more than the 1971-2000 mean.”

The WSI forecast calls for cooler-than-normal temperatures to dominate the East in May, with warmer-than-normal temperatures across the rest of the country. The Northwest will be much warmer than normal in May, WSI said. Cooler-than-normal temperatures will move into the Southwest and North Central areas in June, while the Southeast can expect warmer-than-normal temperatures for the month, the forecasters said.

“Cooler temperatures in the East will dampen electric loads, but generator maintenance schedules will continue to provide a bullish underpinning to gas demand due to nuclear and coal outages,” Flemming said.

While the Southwest is expected to see a return of warmer-than-normal weather in July, the rest of WSI’s temperature forecast map will remain unchanged from June, with cooler-than-normal temperatures continuing to dampen demand in the Northeast. Flemming said he expects cooler temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest to offset strong gas demand for cooling in the western regions.

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