Climatological averages tell us that a typical hurricane season sees 10 tropical storms, and six of those storms will become hurricanes.
Dr. William Gray has been issuing forecasts for hurricane seasons for years, and on Wednesday he and his team of forecasters from Colorado State University issued their updated 2008 forecast at the National Hurricane Conference in the Bahamas. Their updated forecast is not what most people want to hear.
They say the season will be very active. Their forecast calls for 15 tropical storms. They say seven of those 15 storms become strong enough to be called hurricanes, and three of those hurricanes will reach major hurricane status - meaning they are of category 3, 4, or 5 intensity with winds over 110 mph.
Dr. Gray told Miami CBS affiliate WFOR that cooler-than-average water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean - a pattern called La Nina - as well as warmer-than-average water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are major contributing factors to the increase in storms forecast.
A record 28 storms formed in 2005 - the season that included deadly Hurricane Katrina. In 2006 saw only 10 storms, while 2007 saw 14 storms. While no hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. since 2005, several tropical storms did hit the U.S.
Dr. Gray's forecasts do not indicate whether or not storms will actually the the U.S. coast, nor do they indicate where along the U.S. coast storms will hit. His forecast, however, does show the probability of a storm hitting regions of the coast. The overall U.S. coast has a 69% probability of being hit by at least one major hurricane. The average for the last century is 52%. For the Florida Peninsula and the U.S. East Coast, the probability is 45% while the 100-year average is 31%. The Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas to the Florida Panhandle has a 44% probability of being impacted. That 100-year average is 30%.
What does this mean? It means that based on past hurricanes seasons with similar pre-season weather patterns, odds are greater than in most seasons that at least one major storm will impact the U.S. Coast.
Now is the best time to start preparing for hurricanes to strike. The start of the hurricane season is June 1, and the season lasts through November 30.
Here are the storm names for the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season: