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Mixed forecasts for 2001 hurricane season

Despite differences between the predictions of two major hurricane-forecasting agencies, they agree that the potential for more hurricanes to hit the South and East coasts are above average for 2001.

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For more information, click to The Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Scientists at the Colorado State University (CSU) Department of Atmospheric Science and the Benefield Greig Hazard Research Centre (BGHRC) in London are forecasting markedly different potential hurricane patterns for next year. CSU researchers are calling for fewer storms in the Atlantic Ocean than average, while BGHRC's team predicts more storms.

However, CSU's well-regarded hurricane experts, including William Gray, say the probability of a major hurricane striking the United States at 63 percent. The average over the last 100 years is 52 percent. The probability of a hurricane slamming into the U.S. East Coast (including Florida) is 43 percent. The 100-year average is 31 percent.

"Very few residents of the southeastern U.S. coastline are likely aware of how fortunate they have been over the last three to four decades," the CSU report says. "Climatology will eventually right itself and we must expect a great increase in landfalling major hurricanes [in Florida] in the coming decades."

BGHRC scientists agree. They say the chances of an intense hurricane — Category 3 to Category 5 storms — hitting the U.S. Atlantic Coast in 2001 are 30 percent greater than the average over the last 50 years. (See The Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale for information about hurricane classifications.)

That said, CSU's scientists recognize their predictions can sometimes be as reliable as those of an Eight Ball. "Seasonal forecasts are based on statistical schemes which, owing to their intrinsically probabilistic nature, will fail in some years," the CSU report says.

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