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Gray predicts 6 Atlantic hurricanes; 2 could be 'intense'

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NORFOLK, VA. — There will be more "major storms and more damage than we've ever seen" during the 1998 hurricane season, including two "intense" hurricanes, a leading hurricane expert said Friday.

William Gray, a professor at Colorado State University and the world's leading authority on hurricane development, made the prediction during the closing session of the 1998 National Hurricane Conference. Gray makes his annual hurricane predictions each year at the National Hurricane Conference.

Gray expects 10 named storms to form in 1998, six of which will become hurricanes. Of these six storms, Gray said that two will be intense, meaning that they will achieve a level of three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale (Hurricane Fran was a low category three when it hit North Carolina).

These numbers represent a slight increase from Gray's December 1997 predications, when he suggested that the 1998 season would produce nine named storms, with only three becoming hurricanes. The hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30.

Gray told the crowd that the increase is based on a number of complex global climate processes, and that the factors are now "favorable for a somewhat active hurricane season." Gray also indicated that the number of intense hurricanes may increase from two to three when his predictions are updated on June 5.

While it is impossible to predict what lies ahead for North Carolina, Gray stressed that one major influence on this year's hurricane season is a condition known as La Ni?a. The opposite of El Ni?o, La Ni?a is an oceanic current that causes the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean to cool.

While El Ni?o tends to stifle Atlantic tropical storm/hurricane activity, La Ni?a may help increase the likelihood of such storms. Although the dynamics of El Ni?o and La Ni?a are highly complex, at least two computer models suggest that La Ni?a may occur by the end of June or early July. Gray stressed that La Ni?a and El Ni?o are both normal processes that are not caused by human activity.

In addition to Dr. Gray's much-anticipated presentation, the final day of the conference also included presentations from James Baker, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Neil Frank, former director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Baker discussed NOAA's Natural Disaster Reduction Initiative and its Global Disaster Information Network. According to Baker, both programs will greatly enhance federal, state and local efforts to reduce the impacts of hurricanes along the entire Atlantic and Gulf coasts, including North Carolina.

Frank offered an animated presentation that discredited the popular concept of global warming. According to Frank, global warming is not a reality but, rather, an idea that has been accepted and promoted by a minority of scientists. Frank went on to say that a significant amount of the climatological data used to support global warming is incomplete and inaccurate.

The 1999 National Hurricane Conference will be held in Orlando, Fla., in April.


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