A weather scientist known for his hurricane season forecasts said Tuesday a weakening El Nino and other conditions indicate there will be six such storms in the Atlantic this year.
"This year will be distinctly more active than last year, but not as active as the very busy seasons of 1995 and 1996," William Gray, a Colorado State University professor, said in a report Tuesday.In their quarterly forecast, Gray and his colleagues predicted a mostly average hurricane season.
They call for 10 tropical storms, with sustained winds of at least 39 mph, to form in the Atlantic Basin between June 1 and Nov. 30. They predict six of them would grow into hurricanes, including two classified as major, with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.
"The El Nino is fading out a little faster than we thought," Gray said. "By the start of the real active part of the hurricane season, the El Nino will be mostly gone."
El Nino is a condition caused by higher water temperatures in the Pacific off South America. Although El Nino created killer tornadoes and flooding in the southern half of the country this year, the condition usually produces fewer than normal hurricanes.
Other signs that this year will see an increase in hurricanes include weaker trade winds and warmer sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, Gray said.
The Atlantic Basin averages 9.3 tropical storms, 5.8 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes a year.
Until El Nino wreaked havoc with his predictions last year, Gray was known for 14 years of accurate forecasts. In 1997, Gray forecast 11 tropical storms and seven hurricanes, including three classified as major. The season produced just seven tropical storms, three hurricanes and one intense hurricane.