Photo: Hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia (from left to right on Sept. 16, 2010) were part of the onslaught of Atlantic storms during the 2010 season. Credit: NOAA
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to produce above-average activity, a closely-watched forecast issued by Colorado State University said Wednesday.
The forecasters said the June 1-Nov. 30 season will likely have 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes, defined as a Category 3 storm or higher, which feature sustained winds of 111 miles an hour or greater.
An average Atlantic season produces 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Wednesday’s forecast was little changed from a December outlook, with forecasters now expecting one fewer named storm and an equal number of hurricanes and major hurricanes.
“Except for the very destructive hurricane seasons of 2004-2005, United States coastal residents have experienced no other major landfalling hurricanes since 1999,” said forecaster William Gray. “This recent 9-of-11-year period without any major landfall events should not be expected to continue.”
The forecasters see a 47% chance of a major hurricane making landfall along the Gulf Coast between Brownsville, Texas and the Florida Panhandle, a key oil and natural gas processing region. The average annual probability of a hurricane making landfall there is 30% during the last century.
Despite an active hurricane season in 2010, which featured 12 hurricanes, the second-highest on record, only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. Last year 19 named storms formed, and five of those reached major hurricane status.
The impact to the key oil and gas producing regions in the Gulf was also limited. The Energy Information Administration said that just 4.3 million barrels of crude oil output, or 1.5% of total Gulf output, was shut-in amid precautionary closures in June and July.
Natural gas shut-ins totalled 7.94 billion cubic feet, 0.7% of regional output.
Based on forecasts at the beginning of the 2010’s season, the EIA had forecast that 24 million barrels of crude oil production would be shut-in, about twice the average of a normal hurricane season.
Production in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 30% of U.S. crude oil production and 10% of natural gas output, according to the EIA.
The forecasters predict the probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. during the 2011 season as 72%, while the long-term average probability is 52%.
The probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean is 61%, compared with an average during the last century of 42%.
-By Matt Day and Leslie Josephs, Dow Jones Newswires;