Forecasters at Colorado State University think four major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph will form in the Atlantic Basin during a busy 2010 hurricane season.
CSU meteorologists Phil Klotzbach and William Gray also predict that the coming summer storm season will be much busier than last year. Klotzbach and Gray think eight hurricanes will develop from 15 named storms. The forecasters cite two reasons for a busier-than-average hurricane season -- the dissipation of the El Nino that kept the lid on the 2009 hurricane season and very warm waters in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
About 10 tropical storms with winds of at least 35 mph form in an average hurricane season. About six hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph form during an average season, and about two of those storms evolve into major hurricanes.
The 2009 season saw nine tropical storms form, with three of those storms developing into hurricanes that spawned two major hurricanes.
An El Nino is a meteorlogical phenomenon that occurs occasionally in the Pacific Ocean off the northwest coast of South America. The event occurs when waters in this part of the Pacific are unusually warm.
When an El Nino forms, it diverts the normal flow of upper-level winds known as the jet stream. This disruption creates strong winds over the Atlantic Basin that disrupt hurricane formation. Gray and Klotzbach noted that the 2009 El Nino reduced tropical cyclone activity to about 70 percent of the average season. The forecasters think the 2010 season will see about 160 percent of the average season.
The CSU team also thinks there's a 69 percent probability that at least one major hurricane will make landfall somewhere on the U.S. Atlantic Coast.
CSU meteorologists, led by Gray, have been issuing preseason hurricane forecasts for 27 years. The forecasters incorporate 58 years of hurricane data into their predictions.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. CSU will issue another seasonal forecast on June 2.