High chance major hurricane will hit U.S. in 2011: CSU

Wed Apr 6, 2011 1:35pm EDT
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MIAMI (Reuters) - The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will be above average in activity and there is a more than 70 percent chance of at least one major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline, Colorado State University forecasters predicted on Wednesday.

The 2011 forecast from the respected CSU team followed an active season last year which saw high levels of storm and hurricane activity but no landfall on the U.S. coastline.

Slightly reducing an early December forecast, the CSU team said the June 1-November 30 season would spawn 16 named storms.

Of these, nine were expected to turn into hurricanes, with five developing into major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.

The CSU forecast was generally in line with predictions made for the 2011 season by other private forecasters.

The 2010 season spawned 19 named storms, tying for the third most active season with 1887 and 1995, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Of those storms, 12 became hurricanes, tying the second highest season of 1969. There were five major hurricanes in 2010.

The CSU team predicted a "72 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline in 2011," adding that the long-term average probability of this was 52 percent.

"Basically the reason that the probability goes up is just because we're speaking about a well-above-average hurricane season," said Philip Klotzbach, who heads the CSU team with forecaster William Gray who is renowned for his research on seasonal hurricane forecasting.

"In general, more active seasons tend to have more landfalls," Klotzbach said.   Continued...

<p>Hurricane Earl is pictured moving north-northwest in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of southeastern United States, in this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite image taken and released on September 2, 2010. U.S. forecasters from Colorado State University are predicting an above-average 2011 Atlantic hurricane season that will see 16 named storms, nine of them turning into hurricanes. REUTERS/NOAA/Handout</p>