May 28, 2010

2010 Hurricane Season Could Be Worst On Record

U.S. officials warned Thursday that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season may be one of the worst on record.

Officials said that an "active to extremely active" hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) predicted 14 to 23 named storms, including eight to 14 hurricanes, three to seven of which were likely to be "major" storms consisting of at least 111 mph winds.

This is compared to an average of 11 named storms, six of which became hurricanes and two of those become major.

"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco told AFP News.

"The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared," Lubchenco added.

Hurricanes are particularly a threat this year because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where millions of gallons of crude have been leaking since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 21.

NOAA said the prediction that there will be more and bigger storms this year than average was based on several factors.

Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama's spokesman, said the government is mobilizing for the potential impact of any hurricanes.

"The president stressed that the government must ensure we consider the effects the BP oil spill could have on storms, response capabilities, and recovery efforts in planning for this year's season," Gibbs said.

However, he added "those considerations do not change the primary mission of emergency management officials during a response, which is to support state efforts to protect lives and property."

Forecasters said windshear is expected to be weaker this year as the El Nino effect dissipates in the eastern Pacific.

NOAA said that sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are already up four degrees Fahrenheit above average.

"Whether or not we approach the high end of the predicted ranges depends partly on whether or not La Nina develops this summer," Gerry Bell, a hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, told AFP.

"At present we are in a neutral state, but conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for La Nina to develop."

NOAA also said the period since 1995 has been one of unusually high storm activity with eight of the last 15 seasons ranking in the top ten for the most named storms.  There were 28 named storms in 2005.


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