FORT LAUNDERALE, Fla. -- Don't expect another easy hurricane season, tropical weather specialist William Gray said yesterday.
He and his associate Phil Klotzbach predict 14 named storms in 2007, including seven hurricanes, with three of them intense. Chances are almost two in three that a major hurricane with winds greater than 110 mph will slam into the U.S. coast, they said.
That would be more active than the average year, which sees 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two intense. But it would be far calmer than the 28 storms and 15 hurricanes experienced in 2005, the most destructive year on record - and one still fresh in the memory of Floridians and those on the Gulf Coast.
The long-term forecast for the coming hurricane season anticipates that El Nino, an atmospheric condition that shreds storms, will fizzle while sea temperatures remain abnormally warm, said Gray, a Colorado State University professor.
"Despite a fairly inactive 2006 hurricane season, we believe that the Atlantic basin is in an active hurricane cycle," he said. "This active cycle is expected to continue for another decade or two."
Yet, projecting what El Nino will do months before the six-month hurricane season opens next June 1 has proven tricky. That was seen in the inflated forecast for 2006 that Gray and Klotzbach released last year.
They called for 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, but only nine storms and five hurricanes actually materialized. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was off the mark, too, calling for up to 16 named storms and 10 hurricanes.
Gray said the problem was that no one had anticipated El Nino's strengthening and hindering the formation of tropical systems in the Atlantic. But he and Klotzbach said the early forecasts still are important to the public and weather specialists.