The 2007 hurricane season will be one of “above-average” activity, according to Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, one of the best-known and most accurate forecasters.
Gray’s “early season forecast,” issued Dec. 8, predicts 14 named storms, seven of which will become hurricanes. Three of those will be major hurricanes, meaning category 3, 4 or 5.
He added that fewer hurricanes are likely to make landfall than in the costly 2005 season, in which hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma caused massive destruction. There is a 64% chance of at least one major hurricane making a U.S. landfall in 2007, compared with a 52% long-term probability, he said. Gray has said that it would be statistically unlikely that two near-future hurricane seasons would have the number of landfalling major hurricanes seen in 2004 and 2005.
This is the 24th season in which Gray, Philip Klotzbach and the Colorado State University team have made predictions. They will issue updates on April 3, May 31, Aug. 3, Sept. 4 and Oct. 2, Klotzbach said. The last three forecasts will make individual predictions for each of those months.
The probability of an intense hurricane making an East Coast landfall, including Florida, is 40%, which is above the long-term average, Gray said. The Gulf Coast also has a 40% chance of being hit by a major hurricane and that, too, is above the long-term probability.
Gray reiterated his long-held view that hurricane activity is cyclical and is not caused by “human-induced global warming.” Rather, he said, El Nino conditions which produced a below-average hurricane season last year “are likely to dissipate by next summer, leading to above-average hurricane activity.”
El Nino is the name given to an unusual warming of Pacific Ocean equatorial waters, which can affect storm activity globally. In December 2005, Gray’s group forecast a frightening 17 named storms for 2006, nine hurricanes and five intense ones. Fortunately, El Nino activity, along with high concentrations of wind-borne dust from West Africa, turned that prediction inside-out by eliminating conditions that could have triggered such a busy season, Gray said. No hurricanes hit the U.S. coast last year, only the 11th time that has happened since 1945.
“Despite a fairly inactive 2006 hurricane season, we believe that the Atlantic basin is in an active hurricane cycle,” Gray said. That “active” cycle may continue for another 10 to 20 years, he suggested.
The official hurricane season starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
For more information: Hurricane.Atmos.ColoState.edu.