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Forecaster sees above-average hurricane season for 2007

3 major storms are predicted

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season should have above-average activity, with three major hurricanes and a good chance that at least one of them will make landfall, a top hurricane researcher said.

Colorado State forecaster William Gray predicted 14 named storms and seven hurricanes for next year.

He and fellow researcher Philip Klotzbach said there is a 64 percent chance of one of the major hurricanes -- with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater -- coming ashore. The long-term average probability is 52 percent, they said.

Still, they said fewer hurricanes are likely to make landfall next year than in the devastating 2005 season, which had 28 named storms, including 15 hurricanes, four of which hit the United States. The worst was Katrina, which leveled parts of the Gulf Coast.

The 2006 season had nine named storms and five hurricanes, two of them major.

That was considered a "near normal" season but fell short of predictions by Gray and government scientists.

None hit the US Atlantic coast -- the 11th time that has occurred since 1945.

Gray and Klotzbach said last month that a surprise late El Niño contributed to the calmer June-to-November hurricane season this year.

El Niño, a warming in the Pacific Ocean, has far-reaching effects that include changing wind patterns in the eastern Atlantic, which can disrupt the formation of hurricanes there, Gray said.

Gray's team said yesterday that those conditions are likely to dissipate before the next season but Klotzbach cautioned, "this is an early prediction."

Gray said he believes the Atlantic basin is in an active hurricane cycle, despite the calm 2006 season.

"This active cycle is expected to continue for another decade or two at which time we should enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the quarter-century periods of 1970-1994 and 1901-1925," he said.

Tropical Storm Risk, a London-based consortium of weather, insurance, and risk-management specialists, forecast an active 2007 season on Thursday, with up to 16 tropical storms, including nine hurricanes, four of them intense.

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