The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued their annual hurricane forecast, which is very similar to the forecast already released by AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist and Hurricane Forecaster Joe Bastardi in February and again earlier this month.
NOAA forecasts an "active to extremely active" year, while Bastardi said 2010 could be a "top 10 year" in terms of storm frequency and strength, adding that the Atlantic basin looks "textbook" for a major season.
"2010 will be above average," Bastardi said, "and worst-case scenario, it may be in the top 5 to 10 percent as far as impact to land areas in the western hemisphere."
NOAA predicts a 70 percent chance of 14-23 named storms. Bastardi narrows this range by projecting a total of 16-18 named storms, with 15 reaching the western Atlantic and at least six storms impacting the United States coastline, with a worst-case scenario of up to 10.
Bastardi thinks the total number of storms is a "red herring," explaining that it is diverting attention from a bigger concern--the fact that more storms will threaten land areas of North America and adjacent islands.
NOAA predicts there will between 8-12 storms that reach hurricane status, while Bastardi sees 10-11 storms becoming hurricanes this season.
As for major hurricanes, or hurricanes Category 3 and higher, NOAA forecasts between 3 and 7, with Bastardi expecting 5.
The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean will be of special concern this hurricane season, as both the Gulf oil spill area and Haiti will be vulnerable to storm impact.
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. This area is centered near Puerto Rico to near the Southeast U.S. coastline.
"Haiti will be impacted by tropical activity, an idea I alluded to in February," Bastardi said, "At least one and at most several storms could impact the area affected by the spreading oil slick. A strong tropical cyclone will act as a giant blender and dilute much of the oil."
NOAA states that the probability on the season reaching the higher end of the range will depend on whether or not a La Nina, or a cooling of the waters of the Tropical Pacific, develops this summer.
Bastardi said there are bigger things at play than the La Nina, which he said is going to develop this season.
"If La Nina is so important, how is it that there wasn't a La Nina in 2005, the most active hurricane season?" Bastardi said. "Just blaming La Nina is a gross oversimplification of the forecast."
Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
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