Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast Boosted to 18-21 Storms by AccuWeather

AccuWeather Inc. today boosted its forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season to 18 to 21 named storms, up from 16 to 18, and said least three will move through the region affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The worst for the U.S. will come in September, AccuWeather’s chief hurricane forecaster, Joe Bastardi, said in an e-mailed statement. “Expect eight named storms in September and three or four U.S. impacts,” he said.

In 160 years of record-keeping, five years have had 18 or more storms, AccuWeather said.

Forecasters including the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting a more-active tropical season than usual, in part because of above-normal sea temperatures west of Africa and a decline in the Pacific cooling phenomenon known as El Nino, which helps retard Atlantic hurricane development.

NOAA forecast 14 to 23 named storms for the 2010 Atlantic season. If 23 developed, it would be the second-most on record, after 2005, when there were 28 named storms, including Hurricane Katrina.

A tropical storm receives a name when sustained winds reach 39 mph (63 kph). It becomes a hurricane when winds hits 74 mph, and is classified a major storm, Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, at 111 mph. The season began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

‘Orgy of Naming’

Bastardi said the period from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15 may see “an orgy of naming, two or three going on at once and five in a 15-20 day period.”

Three storms, two of them hurricane-level, may pass through the oil spill area, while three more may come close enough to affect cleanup operations and other rig activity, Bastardi said.

The Gulf is home to about 27 percent of the U.S.’s oil and 15 percent of its natural gas production, the Energy Department says. It also has seven of the 10 busiest U.S. ports, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Florida is the second-largest producer of oranges after Brazil.

The April sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, leased by BP Plc, off the coast of Louisiana has caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The company said today the cost of its spill response has reached $2 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charlotte Porter in New York at cporter11@bloomberg.net

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