January 5, 2010 / 8:20 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. gov't forecaster to give earlier storm alerts

* Forecasts to give public additional 12 hours lead time

* Advance in track forecasts credited for earlier warnings

MIAMI, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. National Hurricane Center, citing increases in population and infrastructure along the U.S. coastline, said on Tuesday it would warn 12 hours earlier of approaching storms during this year’s hurricane season.

The Miami-based hurricane center said the earlier watches and warnings for tropical storms and hurricanes would give the public and operators of oil rig platforms in the Gulf of Mexico more time to prepare for adverse weather conditions.

“Tropical storm watches will be issued when tropical storm conditions are possible along the coast within 48 hours. Tropical storm warnings will be issued when those conditions are expected within 36 hours,” the center said in a statement posted on the web site of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Similar increases in lead-time will apply to hurricane watches and warnings,” the statement added. It said recent advancements in forecasting the tracks of storms and hurricanes now made earlier warnings possible.

The changes will go into effect in the 2010 hurricane season, which begins on May 15 in the Eastern Pacific and on June 1 for the Atlantic Basin, the hurricane center said.

A renowned team of researchers based at Colorado State University predicted last month that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season would be “above-average” in activity and produce 11 to 16 tropical storms.

The storms would include six to eight hurricanes, the forecasters said, adding that three to five could become “major” hurricanes of Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale. (Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jackie Frank)

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