AccuWeather.com: A busier hurricane season ahead
AccuWeather.com's hurricane forecasters believe the 2010 Atlantic season will be "much more active" than last year's relatively meek performance. A rapidly weakening El Nino event in the tropical Pacific, unusually warm surface waters in the Atlantic's key hurricane nursery, weakening trade winds and higher humidities, they said, are all pointing to increased activity.
"This year has the chance to be an extreme season," said forecaster Joe Bastardi, who led the company's hurricane forecast team. He also correctly forecasted a very snowy winter season for the mid-Atlantic states in 2009-2010, although his predictions were far short of the actual, record-breaking totals.
The new AccuWeather.com hurricane forecast, out Wednesday morning, calls for 16 to 18 tropical storms this season (the average is 11; last year saw just nine, and only three became hurricanes).
Of the 16 to 18 he expects, Bastardi believes 15 will occur in the western Atlantic. He predicts seven landfalls, five of them hurricanes, of which two or three will come ashore in the U.S. (about average).
Bastardi sees similarities in this year's setup to those in 1964, 1995 and 1998. In 1964, Hurricane Cleo struck near Miami as a Cat. 2 storm and killed 217 people. In 1995, Hurricane Opal struck the Florida panhandle and caused $3 billion in damages. And in 1998, Hurricane Bonnie (photo) came ashore near Wilmington, N.C. as a strong Cat. 2 storm and caused $1 billion in damage.
The hurricane season begins officially on June 1, and continues through November.
(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron/Bonnie whips Ocean City, Md. in 1998)