NOAA Predicts Busy 2006 Hurricane Season

The busiest hurricane season on record brought the most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded and ran several days beyond its official Nov. 30 end, while scientists provided the first solid evidence that global warming might be fueling more powerful storms. These were all big stories in and of themselves, yet none will stick with us like the memory of Katrina, the most destructive storm ever to strike the United States and a long-predicted nightmare for resident of New Orleans. Nature's wrath forced scientists and officials to assess preparedness for other dramatic natural threats the country could face.

The latest in a series of long-range forecasts calls again for a strong hurricane season in 2006.

In the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA researchers predict 13 to 16 named tropical storms, with eight to 10 of those becoming hurricanes. Four to six of the expected storms could become major hurricanes—Category 3 status—with winds exceeding 110 mph.

The forecast is similar to one issued in December by a team from Colorado State University.

"Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year's season, the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high," said NOAA's top official, Conrad C. Lautenbacher.

On average, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricane and two reaching Category 3. Last year saw a record 28 tropical storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven were Category 3 or stronger and four hit the United States, setting a record.

Hurricane activity waxes and wanes in a well known decades-long cycle. We are now in a busy period. Warm ocean temperatures in hurricane-forming regions and favorable atmospheric conditions—including a lack of high-level shearing winds—contribute to the current situation.

Whether the season is active or not, experts encourage people in coastal locations to prepare for the 2006 season, which starts June 1.

"One hurricane hitting where you live is enough to make it a bad season," said Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center.

Live Science Staff
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