HOUSTON – Two national hurricane experts say they expect an especially active storm season in the North Atlantic this year, with one predicting 17 tropical storms and hurricanes.
Philip Klotzbach, a research associate at Colorado State University, and Joe Bastardi, the chief hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather Inc., acknowledged Tuesday that similar predictions for the 2006 season were wrong, but still think there will be a more active storm cycle this year.
Klotzbach and Bastardi spoke at the second annual AccuWeather Hurricane Summit, a gathering of more than 100 weather experts and academics to discuss the coming season with members of the energy industry, whose business can be severely affected by storms.
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"We didn't predict very well last year," Klotzbach said, noting that 2006 turned out to be an average year.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, averages 9.6 named storms, with 5.9 of them becoming hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes.
Last year, there were 10 named storms in the Atlantic, of which five became hurricanes. None of the hurricanes made landfall in the United States, the first time since 2001 that has happened.
Klotzbach and his colleague at Colorado State, William Gray, issued their most recent prediction April 3, forecasting a "very active" season with 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.
Klotzbach said there is a 74 percent chance of a major hurricane striking the United States, with a 49 percent chance it will hit along the Gulf Coast between the Florida Panhandle and Brownsville.
Although Bastardi predicts fewer storms than his counterparts, he agreed 2007 would be more active than usual. He expects 13 or 14 named storms, six or seven of which will strike the U.S. coast.
Bastardi said the Texas Gulf coast is twice as likely to be hit as in an average year and Florida appears four times as likely.
"We are living in a time of climatic hardship," Bastardi said. "We're in a cycle where weather extremes are more the norm and not the exception."
Bastardi said he fears climatic conditions could lead to storms that intensify relatively late in their life when they are closer to landfall.
Last year's hurricane season was in contrast to the devastating 2005 season, which set a record with 28 named storms, 15 of them hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina.