Lian Xie, a professor in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at N.C. State, and graduate student Elinor Keith said Wednesday that their forecasts call for 13 to 15 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Six to eight of the storms could become hurricanes, they said.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
The southeast coast of the U.S. could see one or two named storms make landfall, and there is a better than 50 percent chance that at least one of the storms will be a hurricane, Xie said.
The Gulf of Mexico is most likely to see storm activity this year, he said, predicting two to four named storms, including one hurricane, were likely to make landfall along the Gulf Coast.
Xie’s methodology evaluates data from the last 100 years on Atlantic Ocean hurricane positions and intensity, as well as other variables like weather patterns and sea-surface temperatures, in order to predict how many storms will form and where they will make landfall.
Colorado State University researcher William Gray also predicted Wednesday that rising water temperatures in the Atlantic would bring a "well above average" storm season this year, including four major storms.
Gray's forecast calls for 15 named storms in the Atlantic in 2008 and says there's a better than average chance that at least one major hurricane will hit the U.S.
The 2007 Atlantic season saw 15 named storms, six of which became hurricanes. Two were major storms.
"The Atlantic is a bit warmer than in the past couple of years," said Phil Klotzbach, a member of Gray's forecast team. "That is something we would like to keep an eye on."
Gray had projected seven hurricanes with three major storms in a preliminary forecast in December.
One of the most closely watched hurricane forecasters, Gray has been issuing hurricane predictions for more than 20 years. But he and others have been criticized in recent years for forecasts that were off the mark.
Gray's team says precise predictions are impossible, and the warnings raise awareness of hurricanes.
"We have not been ashamed of our forecast failures. It is the nature of seasonal forecasting to sometimes be wrong," Klotzbach said in a telephone interview from the Bahamas, where the team announced the forecast at a weather conference.
U.S. government forecasters issue their seasonal outlook in late May.