With the onset of the 2005 hurricane season little more than two weeks away, meteorologists Friday warned that conditions in the Atlantic again were
ripe for spawning tropical storms that could slam into Florida or other parts of the Eastern U.S. or Gulf Coast with potentially devastating and
Last season, Florida was hit by four hurricanes in six weeks, an unprecedented succession of natural disasters in the state that was blamed for 123
deaths and more than $42 billion in property damage.
Although predicting precisely where and when storms will make landfall is impossible, forecasters attending Florida's 19th annual Governor's Hurricane
Conference agreed that the Atlantic Ocean was in the throes of an active period that could last two decades or more, and that the resulting increase
in the number of tropical storms heightened the chance of one or more reaching the United States.
"We're in a new era now, and we're going to see a lot more major storms," said William Gray, a professor in Colorado State University's department of
atmospheric science, who issues a much-awaited yearly prediction of hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin.
The most recent calculations by Gray and his research associate Philip J. Klotzbach, presented on the final day of the conference, call for a 73%
chance that a major hurricane — defined as one carrying sustained winds of 111 mph or more — will hit the U.S. coast between June 1 and November
There was a 53% chance of a major hurricane making landfall this year in the Florida peninsula, they said, and a 41% likelihood of one coming ashore
somewhere along the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Texas.
"Right now, the Atlantic looks very favorable for storms," Klotzbach told the conference. "The sea surface temperatures are incredibly warm, much
warmer than normal, and the sea-level pressures have been quite low."
Max Mayfield — director of the National Hurricane Center — alerted the 2,900 government officials, emergency responders, representatives of
private charities and others attending the weeklong event that they might be in for another very busy hurricane season.
"I can tell you that we have had more tropical storms, and more hurricanes, since 1995 than any other 10-consecutive-year period on record," Mayfield
said Wednesday. "So folks, we're in this active period, like it or not."
Gray explained that the rising salinity of a vast stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, caused by evaporation, was making a wide current flow north, pulling
warmer water from the South Atlantic and tropics. The added heat carried by that water, he said, is excellent for helping spawn hurricanes.
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Last year was bad. Could this year be worse? What do you think the increase is from? Is it the ozone layer or El Nino? What is it from?