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Busy 2003 hurricane season seen

Hurricane prognosticator William Gray is warning of a busy 2003 Atlantic Basin hurricane season.

BY PJ HELLER | FORT COLLINS, CO | February 13, 2003

Hurricane prognosticator William Gray is warning of a busy 2003 Atlantic Basin hurricane season with a greater chance of major storms developing and increased likelihood of storms making landfall along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

Gray, a Colorado State University professor who has been forecasting Atlantic hurricane activity for 20 years, predicts the 2003 season will bring 12 named storms, of which eight will become hurricanes and three which will develop into intense hurricanes with winds of more than 111 miles per hour.

"Information obtained through November 2002 indicates that the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season will be an active one," he said. The 2002 hurricane season saw 12 named storms, four of which became hurricanes and two of which were intense storms.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Gray said that while storm activity was expected to rise, the East Coast and Gulf states stood a much greater risk of a storm coming ashore.

"The probability of a major hurricane making U.S. landfall in 2003 is 30 percent higher than in the average season," he said.

His forecast indicated a 68 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting somewhere along the U.S. coastline this season, with a 48 percent chance an intense hurricane would strike along the East Coast including the Florida Peninsula. The likelihood of a similar storm striking the Gulf Coast was put at 38 percent.

"The United States has been extremely lucky over the past eight years, but climatology will eventually right itself and we must expect a great increase in landfalling intense hurricanes," Gray said. "With such large coastal population growth in recent decades, it is inevitable that we will see hurricane-spawned destruction in coming years on a scale many times greater than what we have seen in the past."

Gray said an end current El Niņo conditions and expected warm sea surface temperatures in the north and tropical Atlantic would contribute to increased storm activity this season. A moderate El

Niņo and uncharacteristically cool temperatures in the tropical

Atlantic helped to inhibit hurricane activity in 2002, he said.

Global warming caused by humans was ruled out as a factor affecting recent and projected Atlantic hurricane activity.

Gray is expected to issue hurricane forecasting updates in April, May, August and September.

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