In an updated seasonal outlook released this week, Colorado State University storm prognosticators Phil Klotzbach and William Gray call for 16 named storms, including nine hurricanes.
They predict five of those hurricanes will be major systems, with winds greater than 110 mph.
That is slightly slower than their initial forecast for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1.
In December, the two climatologists predicted 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five intense.
If their forecast holds, it would translate to a busy season; in an average season, 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two intense, develop.
They say Atlantic basin sea surface temperatures should remain warm, though slightly cooler than last year. Also, they remain uncertain whether El Nino will emerge before the heart of the season.
El Nino is the atmospheric weather pattern that creates wind shear and inhibits storm formation.
"We have reduced our forecast slightly from early December due to a combination of recent ocean warming in the eastern and central tropical Pacific and recent cooling in the tropical Atlantic," Klotzbach said.
In any case, they don't expect this season to be as frenetic as last year, when 19 named storms, including 12 hurricanes emerged.
The good news last year: Not a single hurricane struck the U.S. coastline.
As part of their forecast, Klotzbach and Gray call for a 72 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will strike the United States. The average is a 52 percent chance.
They call for a 48 percent chance that a major hurricane will strike the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula. The average is a 31 percent chance.
"It is recommended that all vulnerable coastal residents make the same hurricane preparations every year, regardless of how active or inactive the seasonal forecast is," Klotzbach said. "It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its season outlook on May 19.
By Ken Kaye - Sun-Sentinel (MCT)
(c) 2011, Sun Sentinel.
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