A renowned Colorado State University forecasting team is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year. But the team is quick to point out that it may not be as active as the 2005 season, which produced Katrina, among several other devastating hurricanes.
The Colorado State team expects 17 named storms to form in the Atlantic, with 9 becoming hurricanes. Five are predicted to move on to major hurricane status: categories 3, 4, and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of more than 110 miles per hour.
Other top forecasting teams are predicting similar results. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects 13 to 17 named storms to develop, 10 of which may become hurricanes, with 3 to 5 climbing to major status.
An average Atlantic season produces ten named storms.
According to Colorado State’s Department of Atmospheric Science, there is a 49% chance of at least one category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane striking the Gulf Coast region in 2007, with a 74% chance that such a storm will make landfall anywhere along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard.
However, fewer hurricanes are predicted to make landfall this year than in 2005, which saw a season that produced 28 named storms, including 15 hurricanes, four of which rocked the United States. Katrina—one of the costliest storms in recorded U.S. history—annihilated parts of the Gulf Coast.
An active hurricane season had been predicted for 2006 as well, yet only 10 storms formed—and not a single hurricane hit the U.S. Atlantic coast.
Experts attributed this decrease in activity to a surprise El Niño pattern that developed in the Pacific. However, many believe this phenomenon will not be a factor this year.
Colorado State’s forecast team leader, Phil Klotzbach, stated, “We’ve seen El Niño conditions dissipate quite rapidly late this winter. So we do not think that’s going to be an inhibiting factor this year” (LiveScience).