10 hurricanes forecast in 2010

MIAMI (Reuters) – The Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team on Wednesday maintained its 2010 Atlantic hurricane season forecast at 10 hurricanes, five of them expected to be major.

The leading storm research team, founded by hurricane forecast pioneer William Gray, said the six-month season that began on June 1 would likely see 18 named tropical storms, unchanged from its June 2 prediction.

So far the season has produced three tropical storms, one of which grew to hurricane strength. But the season is just approaching its traditional busy phase, which runs from mid- August to October.

The CSU team saw a 75 percent probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline.

“Major” storms are Category 3 or above on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and have top winds of more than 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour).

The researchers said they had seen the beginnings of La Nina, a cooling of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific associated with wind patterns that make it easier for hurricanes to form in the Atlantic.

“We believe that a moderate La Nina will be present over the next several months, which is associated with decreased levels of vertical wind shear and increased hurricane activity,” Gray said.

Hurricanes draw strength from warm water and the team said sea temperatures were unusually warm in the tropical and North Atlantic.

“These very warm waters are associated with dynamic and thermodynamic factors that are very conducive for an active Atlantic season,” said Phil Klotzbach, lead author on the forecast.

The team said there was a 49 percent chance that a major hurricane would hit land along the Gulf of Mexico between Florida and Texas, a region still cleaning up from the BP spill.

Storms in that region often disrupt U.S. oil and natural gas operations.

The CSU team said there was a 64 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall in the Caribbean and Central America.

(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher and Jane Sutton, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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