Once again, major forecasters are predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean.
The federal government predicts 12-18 named tropical storms, including 6-10 hurricanes, 3-6 of which are expected to be major hurricanes with 111 mph winds or higher. That prediction, from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, jives with the latest prediction from the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, which predicts 16 tropical storms, including nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes. Its bounds also encompass the prediction from Accuweather.com for 15 named tropical storms, including eight hurricanes, three of which will reach major hurricane status.
The average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes.
The 2010 hurricane season largely lived up to predictions, but there was less damage caused by hurricanes than in similarly active 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and 2008, when Haiti was battered by successive hurricanes. Many 2010 storms steered clear of land.
There are three major factors driving the forecast:
1. We're in a stormy era, based on cycles measured over the course of decades.
2. The Atlantic continues to be warm, which feeds hurricane strength. (See image at right.)
3. La Niña, the name given to the on-again, off-again cool patch in the Pacific Ocean, is still present, and that tends to reduce wind sheer and allow hurricanes to form across the globe in the Atlantic. La Niña's counterpart, El Niño has the opposite effect.
For residents of the Gulf Coast and the East Coast at least up through the Carolinas (hurricanes have hit as far north as New York and Massachusetts in years past), it's time to prepare for the eventuality of a tropical storm. For tips, visit hurricanes.gov/prepare.
When the 2011 tropical storms and hurricanes do come, these will be their names:
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