U.S. News

WSI raises 2008 Atlantic hurricane forecast

This image from the U.S.-French Jason oceanographic satellite released by NASA April 21, 2008 depicts one of the strongest La Ninas in many years as it is slowly weakening but continues to blanket the Pacific Ocean near the equator. REUTERS/NASA/Handout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Private weather forecaster WSI Corp said on Tuesday it raised the number of Atlantic hurricanes it expects this year to eight from seven due to warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures that will likely encourage storm development.

“We have increased our forecast slightly based on continued Atlantic warming in recent months, along with the persistence, albeit a bit weaker, of the La Nina event,” said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford in a press release.

Financial markets watch hurricane forecasts closely after a parade of severe storms in 2005 demolished parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast, causing billions of dollars in damage and temporarily shutting down a quarter of the nation’s refining capacity.

WSI’s forecast for the 2008 season calls for 14 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes and four of which will strengthen into major hurricanes. The outlook is up slightly from WSI’s outlook in December, which called for 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three intense hurricanes.

The hurricane season runs for six months starting June 1.

WSI’s forecast numbers are significantly higher than the 1950-2007 averages of 9.7 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes, the Massachusetts-based company said.

The forecast is in line with a recent outlook from Colorado State University that called for 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.