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More Atlantic Hurricanes Than Normal Predicted for 2008

WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2008 (ENS) – This year, there is a 65 percent chance of an Atlantic hurricane season with more storms than normal, officials with the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center warned today.

The Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, issued the prediction at a news conference called to urge residents in vulnerable areas to be fully prepared for the onset of hurricane season, which begins June 1.

Living in a coastal state means having a plan for each and every hurricane season. Review or complete emergency plans now – before a storm threatens,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. Planning and preparation is the key to storm survival and recovery.”

The Climate Prediction Center outlook calls for considerable activity with a 65 percent probability of an above normal season and a 25 percent probability of a near normal season. This means there is a 90 percent chance of a near or above normal season.

For 2008, the outlook indicates a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms.

The forecast includes six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes – classed as category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes for which two reach major status.

The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity,” Lautenbacher said. It does not predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land. That is the job of the National Hurricane Center after a storm forms.”

Most of the 2008 activity is expected to take place during August through October, the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The first named storm in 2008 will be Arthur. Tropical systems acquire a name upon reaching tropical storm strength with sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour. Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph, and become major hurricanes when winds reach 111 mph.

Bill Read, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, NHC, said, Our forecasters are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane, which forms in the Atlantic Basin. We urge coastal residents to have a hurricane plan in place before the season begins and NHC will continue to provide the best possible forecast to the public.”

NOAA forecasters at the Miami-based National Hurricane Center are in continuous monitoring mode employing a dense network of satellites, land-based and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA and its partners.

This array of data supplies the information for complex computer modeling and human expertise that serves the basis for the hurricane center’s track and intensity forecasts that extend out five days in advance.

The science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions.

Many combinations of named storms and hurricanes can occur for the same set of climate conditions, NOAA says. One cannot know with certainty whether a given climate signal will be associated with several short-lived storms or fewer longer-lived storms with greater intensity.

The main factors influencing this year’s seasonal outlook are the continuing multi-decadal signal – the combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995. This signal includes above-normal sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean.

One of the expected oceanic conditions is a continuation since 1995 of warmer-than-normal temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic,” said meteorologist Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.

Even though the last two Atlantic hurricane seasons have been near-normal, there remains no indication the current active hurricane era has ended.

Bell also mentioned the anticipated lingering effects of La Niña, the cooling weather pattern in the Eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that affects weather conditions around the world.

Currently, La Niña seems to be waning, but its atmospheric impacts often persist even after Pacific Ocean temperatures have returned to normal. There is considerable uncertainty among the forecast models as to how strong the La Niña influence will be.

Americans in hurricane-prone states must get serious and be prepared,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Administrator David Paulison. Government – even with the federal, tribal, state and local governments working perfectly in sync – is not the entire answer. Everyone is part of the emergency management process.”

“We must continue to develop a culture of preparedness in America in which every American takes personal responsibility for his or her own emergency preparedness,” Paulison said.

NOAA’s Atlantic hurricane season outlook will be updated on August 7, just prior to what is historically the peak period for hurricane activity.

FEMA offers hurricane preparedness information at: www.fema.gov.

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