Bill Gray, who’s long been regarded as something of a renegade in the hurricane business, has also been one of the more accurate forecasters. He and his group work out of Colorado State University, and today they’re out with their 2007 prediction. They say it will be a "very active" season.
His group’s numbers:
–17 named storms.
–Nine of them are likely to become hurricanes.
–Five of those are likely to become "major" hurricanes, with winds above 110 mph.
They also say the chances of the U.S. taking a direct hit are unusually high:
–A 74 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline in 2007 (the long-term average probability is 52 percent).
–A 50 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31 percent)
–A 49 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30 percent).
Of course, everyone is a bit wary of full-year forecasts, after 2005 was off the charts–and 2006 was surprisingly quiet. Gray dialed back last year as storm after storm petered out.
"The activity of these two years was unusual, but within the natural bounds of hurricane variation," says Gray in a release. "Following the two very active seasons of 2004 and 2005, 2006 experienced slightly below-average activity with no landfalling hurricanes."
The National Hurricane Center groans a little when Gray’s forecast comes out. They’ll deliver their own in late May.
(NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Katrina approaching landfall in 2005.)