The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will be far more active than usual with 17 tropical storms, of which nine will grow into hurricanes, a noted U.S. forecasting team founded by William Gray said.
If the prediction proves true, the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season could mark a return to the destructive seasons of 2004, when four strong hurricanes hit Florida, and 2005, the year of Katrina, after a mild 2006 season when only 10 storms formed.
The 2004 and 2005 seasons rattled oil and insurance markets as hurricanes rampaged through the oil and gas fields of the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina was the costliest storm in U.S. history with more than $80 billion in damage in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast.
The 2005 season was a record-breaker with 28 storms and 15 hurricanes.
In its updated outlook for the 2007 season, the Colorado State University team led by hurricane forecast pioneer Gray and Philip Klotzbach raised the number of expected storms and hurricanes from the 14 and seven, respectively, that it had predicted in December.
The forecasters said the disappearance of the El Nino warm-water phenomenon in the eastern Pacific, which dampened Atlantic hurricane activity last year, and warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures lay behind their upgraded forecast.