NEW YORK (Reuters) - The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season could be the most active since 2005, the most active season in recorded history, Weather Services International (WSI) said on Tuesday.
In its latest forecast, WSI, of Andover, Massachusetts, called for 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes and five intense hurricanes, rated as category 3 storm with winds of 11-130 mph, or greater.
That is well above the 1950-2009 averages of 10 named storms, six hurricanes, and three intense hurricanes and slightly above the averages from the more active recent 15-year period of 14 named storm, eight hurricanes and four intense hurricanes.
These numbers are also an increase from WSI’s April forecast of 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will release its 2010 hurricane season forecast on Thursday.
The forecasts are widely watched by energy and commodity markets for signs of potential weather disruptions to oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico during the June to November hurricane season.
Other meteorologists have already predicted conditions are ripe for an unusually destructive hurricane season, which could disrupt efforts to clean up BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
WSI said the coastal region from the Outer Banks of North Carolina northward to Maine was twice as likely as normal to experience a hurricane this year.
“Our model suggests the threat to the Northeast coast this season is on par with that in Florida and the Gulf coastal states,” WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford, said in a release.
WSI said the 2009 tropical season was the quietest since 1997, as an emerging El Nino event combined with relatively cool tropical Atlantic waters to suppress widespread storm development.
“However, the primary drivers for tropical activity have sharply reversed course this year and everything is in place for an incredibly active season ... eastern and central tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently at record warm levels for May, even warmer than the freakishly active season of 2005,” Crawford said.
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which included Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated the oil and natural gas-rich U.S. Gulf Coast, was the most active in history, causing more than 1,500 U.S. deaths and more than $115 billion in damages, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
“While we’ve increased our forecast numbers in both of the last two monthly updates, we are still more likely to raise than lower these numbers going forward,” Crawford noted.
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy