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More Atlantic hurricanes predicted

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Colorado State University has increased its forecast for Atlantic hurricane activity in 2017 to predict average storm activity, with near-average probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the United States coast and the Caribbean. 

University forecasters increased their latest projection to 13 named Atlantic storms from the 11 predicted in their mid-April report, not counting Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed in April prior the official June 1 start of hurricane season. They also increased their hurricane projection to six from four predicted in the previous report. But the number of major hurricanes predicted remained steady at two.

“The odds of a significant El Niño in 2017 have diminished somewhat, and portions of the tropical Atlantic have anomalously warmed over the past two months,” the university in Fort Collins, Colorado, said in its hurricane forecast released Thursday. “While the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal, the far North Atlantic remains colder than normal, potentially indicative of a negative phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation.”

El Niño conditions typically result in below-average storm activity while the opposite is true of La Niña. 

Negative phases of the AMO tend to be associated with overall less conducive conditions for Atlantic hurricane activity due to higher tropical Atlantic surface pressures, drier middle levels of the atmosphere and increased levels of sinking motion, according to the forecast. 

The probability for at least one major hurricane — Category 3, 4 or 5 — making landfall along the entire U.S. coastline is 55% compared to the 52% average over the last century. For the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, the probability is 33% compared with the historical 31% century average. For the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, the probability is 32% compared with the 30% average for the last century.

“We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” the forecasters said. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season regardless of how much activity is predicted.”

Sean Kevelighan, CEO of the New York-based Insurance Information Institute, warned that disaster losses along both the East and Gulf coasts are projected to escalate in the coming years, in part because of spikes in building and property development.

“With the Atlantic hurricane season upon us, we have an opportunity to promote community resilience with greater emphasis on solutions that can save lives and prevent losses,” he said in a statement. “The key to having a lasting impact is to build and grow a resilience movement that helps businesses, communities and individuals plan ahead. This kind of preparation helps by lowering insurance costs, reducing losses and encouraging faster recovery and rebuilding of our cities and infrastructure.”