Denver Hurricane expert William Gray downgraded his 2007 Atlantic storms forecast slightly Tuesday, but he still predicted above-average activity for the rest of the season, with five more hurricanes, two of them major.
As Hurricane Felix lashed the coast of Honduras, forecaster Phil Klotzbach, a member of Gray's team at Colorado State University, said a combination of a weak La Nina and low pressure readings in the Atlantic indicated an active 2007 season remains likely. Weak La Nina systems usually have fewer wind shears, systems that can tear developing storms apart, Klotzbach said.
After an early named storm in May, the first two months of the Atlantic hurricane season, June and July, had average activity with two named storms but no hurricanes. August was about average with two named storms; one became a hurricane, Dean, which grew into a Category 5 storm before hitting Central America.
Gray has been forecasting hurricanes for more than two decades, and his predictions are watched closely by emergency responders and others in coastal areas.
Before the start of the June-through-November Atlantic season, his team forecast 17 named storms and nine hurricanes. The team revised that forecast slightly downward in August to 15 named storms and eight hurricanes. In the latest forecast, the team still expects 15 named storms but says only seven of them will be hurricanes.
Klotzbach said the team's 2007 forecast is shaping up so far as more accurate than last year's.
In 2006, the team forecast nine hurricanes, five of them major. Instead, there were just five hurricanes, two of them major.
"Every time when you bust, you learn some stuff," Klotzbach said. "So far, the season is kind of evolving the way we expected it to."