Colorado researchers predict active hurricane season

June 2, 2010 1:51:35 PM PDT
Forecasters at Colorado State University are predicting an active hurricane season that could complicate efforts to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The researchers said Wednesday that they expect 18 named storms to develop in the Atlantic, including 10 hurricanes. Five are expected to be major, and there's an above-average probability of a major storm -- one with sustained winds of at least 111 mph -- hitting land in the United States or Caribbean.

The forecast has worsened since April, when CSU researchers predicted 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes, because of much warmer tropical Atlantic surface temperatures and cooling Pacific conditions.

Researcher William Gray said storms that hit the Gulf of Mexico could help or hurt efforts to keep oil away from the coast, depending on the course the storms take and how soon the flow of oil is stopped. While the hurricane season officially started Tuesday, major storms still aren't likely for another 2 1/2 to 3 months.

If a storm develops to the west of the spill, the storm's counterclockwise rotation could drive the oil to beaches to the north, Gray said. However, he said a storm developing to the east could help drive oil away from the coast.

Storms could also churn up the water, causing the oil to sink below the surface and the spill to disperse, spreading its damage along a wider swath, he said. He doesn't think the presence of the oil will hamper storms from moving across the gulf.

According to Gray and his colleagues, there's a 51 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast, which is greater than the long-term average of 30 percent.

Gray said there have been some similarities between the lead-up to this hurricane season and other big hurricane years, including 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 14 to 23 tropical storms this year, including up to seven major hurricanes.

Keep your family safe this hurricane season. Check our complete tropical weather preparation guide


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