Forecasters Warn of Increased Hurricane Threat

Note to the millions of people living near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts: Be prepared to batten down the hatches, it'll be a rougher than normal season for tropical storms.

With seven storms, including two hurricanes, already recorded — a record for this early in the year — National Weather Service Director David L. Johnson (search) said Tuesday there could be 11 to 14 more tropical storms, including seven to nine more hurricanes, by the end of November.

Hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell (search) said a combination of warmer waters, low wind shear and low pressure, as well as the jet stream, favor storm formation.

Hurricanes derive their energy from warm water. The sea surface is two to three degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, Bell noted.

Wind shear, a change in wind direction with altitude, can suppress these storms and lack of shear allows them to form. The jet stream is in place to guide disturbances moving off the coast of Africa, he added.

Weather Service officials urged preparedness on the part of people living in hurricane-prone areas.

Bell said hurricanes have increased since 1995. He said there is a cycle between more and less active hurricane seasons which lasts for decades. The nation's coastlines had major population increases during the decades with low storm activity in the 1970s and 1980s, he noted.

A new analysis by Kerry Emmanuel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (search) suggests global warming is making tropical storms stronger.

However, that report did not suggest it is generating more storms and Bell said it isn't possible to determine such an effect because the cycles of more and fewer storms are so strong.