NU Online News Service, April 7, 11:40 a.m. EDT

The Atlantic basin could be in for an above-average hurricane season this year with four major hurricanes forecast to develop in the region, according to forecasters at Colorado State University.

The forecast team of William Gray, who has led the forecast team for 27 years, and Phil Klotzbach, lead forecaster on the university hurricane forecast team, released their predictions for the 2010 hurricane season, running June 1 to Nov. 30.

The team predicts 15 named storms will form in the Atlantic. Eight are expected to become hurricanes, and four will develop into major hurricanes–Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 111 mph or more.

Long-term averages are 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes per year, the team said.

“We expect current moderate El Nino conditions to transition to neutral conditions by this year’s hurricane season,” Mr. Klotzbach said in a statement. “The dissipating El Nino, along with the expected anomalously warm Atlantic ocean sea surface temperatures, will lead to favorable dynamic and thermodynamic conditions for hurricane formation and intensification.”

Mr. Gray said the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline “is 69 percent compared with the last-century average of 52 percent. While patterns may change before the start of hurricane season, we believe current conditions warrant concern for an above-average season.”

The team said current weather conditions have a number of similarities to early April conditions that preceded the hurricane years of 1958, 1966, 1969, 1998 and 2005. All five of these seasons had above-average activity, especially the seasons of 1969, 1998 and 2005, the team said.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in 2005, was listed as the most expensive catastrophe loss in the United States in terms of insured loss at more than $45 billion in 2008 dollars.

Both Mr. Klotzbach and Mr. Gray predict the 2010 season will have slightly less activity than the average of these five earlier years.

The team predicts tropical cyclone activity in 2010 will be 160 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2009 witnessed tropical cyclone activity that was about 70 percent of the average season.

The hurricane forecast team’s probabilities for a major hurricane making landfall on U.S. soil are as follows:

o A 45 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31 percent).

o A 44 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30 percent).

o A 58 percent chance of a major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean (the long-term average is 42 percent).

The team said it will issue forecast updates on June 2 and Aug. 4.

Detailed information about the forecast is available at www.e-transit.org/hurricane.