Colorado hurricane forecaster predicts 7 Atlantic hurricanes in 2008; 3 major storms likely

Published 8:22 pm Friday, December 7, 2007

Hurricane forecaster William Gray called Friday for seven Atlantic hurricanes, three of them major, during the 2008 season.

Gray’s team at Colorado State University issued the prediction six months before the June-November season begins.

The preliminary forecast calls for a total of 13 named storms in the Atlantic. It also says it is probable that at least one major hurricane will hit the U.S. coastline.

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“Despite fairly inactive 2006 and 2007 hurricane seasons, we believe that the Atlantic basin is still in an active hurricane cycle,” Gray said. “This active cycle is expected to continue at least for another decade or two.”

Gray has been forecasting hurricanes for more than two decades, and his predictions are watched closely by emergency responders and others in coastal areas.

The predictions are not always on the mark. Gray initially forecast nine hurricanes for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, and later lowered that prediction to eight. Only six hurricanes formed.

Cooler water and the presence of wind shears in the central tropical Atlantic explained the difference, said Phil Klotzbach, a member of Gray’s team and the lead author of the forecast. Cooler temperatures inhibit hurricane formation, and wind shears can tear developing hurricanes apart.

The team also predicted nine hurricanes for the 2006 season, when only five developed. Klotzbach said that in seven of the past nine years, the team correctly predicted whether the season would be above or below average.