More hurricanes will threaten US in active 2011 season - forecast

08 December 2010 16:19  [Source: ICIS news]

Lightning strike near US chemical plantHOUSTON (ICIS)--The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season should be above average with 17 named storms, a team of meteorologists said on Wednesday, adding that hurricanes were more likely to make US landfall than in 2010.

“The US was extremely lucky in 2010 that none of the 12 Atlantic basin hurricanes that formed crossed the US coastline,” said Philip Klotzbach, research scientist with Colorado State University (CSU).

“On average, about 1 in 4 Atlantic basin hurricanes makes US landfall, and therefore, we would expect to see more landfalling hurricanes in 2011,” he added.

The CSU team predicted a 73% chance that at least one major hurricane (winds of at least 111 miles/hour, or 179 km/hour) would make US landfall in 2011, well above the long-term annual average of 52%.

Hurricanes can disrupt the North American petrochemical industry, since oil and gas production is concentrated in Gulf of Mexico and much of the country's plants are on the US Gulf coast.

Even the threat of a major storm can disrupt oil and natural gas supplies, with companies having to evacuate Gulf platforms as a precaution.

No named storms (winds of at least 39 miles/hour) made US landfall in 2010, though the outer bands of Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Hermine disrupted south Texas refineries after striking northern Mexico.

Several storms struck Mexico, leading to flooding and logistics problems throughout the region that lasted for weeks.

Overall, the 2010 season was well above-average in hurricane activity, with 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes (winds of at least 74 miles/hour) and five major hurricanes. The figures were in line with the group’s prior predictions.

The CSU team called for a similar output in 2011 in its initial forecast on Wednesday, projecting 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes.

“Sea surface temperatures in the far north Atlantic remain at record-warm levels, which is an indication that we are in an active multi-decadal period for Atlantic hurricane activity,” said chief forecaster William Gray.

The CSU team issues four hurricane season forecasts per year along with a seasonal recap, with its next forecast to be released on 6 April.

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will last from 1 June until 30 November.

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By: Ben DuBose
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