Next year's Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than usual, one of the nation's leading hurricane forecasters predicted Friday.
In their first forecast for the 2002 season, Colorado State University professor William Gray and his associates said they expect 13 named storms between June 1 and Nov. 30. They predicted that eight will become hurricanes and four will evolve into major or intense hurricanes.
"This upcoming hurricane season appears to have the potential for continued above-average hurricane activity," Gray said. "We foresee an increased level of hurricanes forming in the deep tropics in 2002 and hurricane activity coming earlier than it did this year."
The forecast is for the Atlantic Basin, which includes the North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
The average numbers of storms between 1950 and 1990 was 9.3 named storms, 5.8 hurricanes and 2.2 major hurricanes per year.
Hurricane activity has been on the rise since the 1995 season, Gray said. The years 1995 through 2001 represent the most active seven-season period on record, with 93 named storms, 57 hurricanes and 27 major hurricanes.
Gray said just three of those 27 major hurricanes crossed the U.S. coastline. Typically, one in three major hurricanes crosses to land, but the Atlantic Basin has seen 19 consecutive hurricanes since 1999 that did not reach the coast.
"We've been extremely lucky," Gray said. "But climatology will eventually right itself and we must expect a great increase in landfalling hurricanes in coming years."
He said destruction from hurricanes could be greater in 2002 than in past years due to coastal population growth.
The forecast estimates that there is an 86 percent chance that one or more hurricanes of category 3, 4 or 5 will make landfall somewhere on the U.S. coast during 2002. Storms in those categories can do extensive damage. The average for the past century is 52 percent.
For the East Coast and the Florida Peninsula, the probability of a major storm reaching land in 2002 is 58 percent. The average for the past century in the region is 31 percent.
The Gulf Coast — from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas — has a major storm landfall probability of 43 percent, compared with 31 percent, on average, for the century.
Last year, the Colorado State team's final update in August called for 12 named storms and seven hurricanes, with three of them major or intense. The 2001 season wrapped up Nov. 30 with 15 named storms and nine hurricanes, four of them major or intense.
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