The current record Atlantic cyclone year will be followed by yet another highly active season, though Americans can expect fewer major hurricanes to make landfall in 2006, top experts said Tuesday.
A total of 17 tropical storms, including nine hurricanes, should form in the Atlantic basin in 2006, as compared with a record-setting 26 tropical storms and 14 hurricanes this year, said leading experts William Gray and Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
Of those hurricanes, five should be intense, meaning they will reach or exceed category three on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, the forecasters said. Seven intense hurricanes formed in the Atlantic basin this year.
The study said there was a 99 percent chance of a hurricane making landfall in the United States, with an 88 percent likelihood of a category one or two striking land, and an 81 percent chance of a category three, four or five slamming ashore.
Other experts also have warned residents in threatened areas to brace for several more years of intense hurricane activity in the Atlantic.
But there was good news for storm-weary residents of the southern United States, where four major hurricanes slammed ashore in 2004 and another four this year.
"Even though we expect to see the current active period of major hurricane activity to continue for another 15-20 years, it is statistically unlikely that the coming 2006 and 2007 hurricane seasons, or the seasons that follow, will have the number of major hurricane US landfalls as we have seen in 2004-2005."
Experts believe the latest record hurricane season was part of a cycle where periods of relative calm alternate with decades of intense activity.
Some scientists also believe global warming plays a crucial effect by further increasing the temperature of warm ocean waters that provide fuel to the hurricanes.
But the Colorado State University study played down the theory.
"No credible observational evidence is available or likely will be available in the next few decades which will directly associate global surface temperature change to changes in global frequency and intensity."
The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, but Hurricane Epsilon on Tuesday still churned over the open ocean.
A comparatively weak hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, Epsilon was located 845 kilometers (525 miles) southwest of the Azores early Tuesday.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Record 14th Atlantic Hurricane Extends Storm Season
by Patrick Moser
Miami (AFP) Dec 02, 2005
Tropical Storm Epsilon Friday strengthened into an unprecedented 14th Atlantic hurricane of the year, extending a deadly and hyperactive six-month season that officially ended two days earlier.
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