The upcoming hurricane season could be a top 10 active year, a stark contrast from the relatively calm 2009 season. AccuWeather.com Chief Hurricane Meteorologist Joe Bastardi predicts a total of 16-18 storms this season. To put that in perspective, only eight years in the 160 years of records have had 16 or more storms in a season. The season should start early with one or two threats by early July, and stay late with additional threats extending well into October.
His forecast team expects at least six storms to impact the United States coastline--slightly more than one out of every three. In a normal year, one out of every five named storms (20 percent) in the Atlantic basin impacts the United States. In the 2005 season, 36 percent of the storms affected the United States, while 50 percent impacted the United States in 1998 and 2008.
"From the standpoint of number of storm threats from the tropics to the United States coastline, we will at least rival 2008, and in the extreme case, this season could end up in a category only exceeded by 2005," Bastardi said. Bastardi observes a rapid warming of the Gulf of Mexico and the collapsing El Nino pattern, which were both characteristics of the 1998 and 2005 seasons.
Named storms moving through the Gulf of Mexico can cause major disruption to both oil and gas production. In 2008, shutdown of production caused a decline in production of 62 million barrels of oil and 408 billion cubic feet of gas. In the record-setting season of 2005, nearly three months of production time was lost.
According to Bastardi, the Atlantic basin looks "textbook" for a major season, with many long track storms that make their way from off the coast of Africa into the western Atlantic and Caribbean heading toward the United States coastline.
He adds that in the heart of the season, there will be a "congregation of tracks," or a concentrated area where many of the storm tracks will pass through. "I believe there will be a bunching of tracks in the area around the Antilles and into the Bahamas," he said.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
For more information, be sure to visit the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center.