Stormy outlook: Busy hurricane season looms

The 2010 hurricane season is likely to be eventful, costly and memorable. That's the consensus of the meteorologists for major forecasting services who have issued outlooks.

This could be the year that the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts take a hit, according to Todd Crawford, the forecaster at WSI Corp., a New England company that released its outlook late today.

WSI, which serves energy companies, is calling for 16 named tropical storms - those with winds of 39 m.p.h. or more, with nine of those packing winds of at least 74 m.p.h., the hurricane threshold.

On average, the season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, spawns about 10 named storms and six hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Accu-Weather Inc., the private service in State College, Pa., has called for 16 to 18 named storms, and meteorologist Joe Bastardi has said this has a chance to be an "extreme season."

In the forecast it updated earlier this month, the Colorado State University forecast team of William Gray and Philip Klotzbach predicted 15 named storms.

All the forecasters see an increased likelihood of storms making landfall on the U.S. coasts. Crawford said the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine would be "under a significantly increased threat" this season.

The experts agree that conditions in the Pacific and Atlantic are ideal for storm formation and look for a season more typical of the busy hurricane era that began in 1995.

The 2009 season was one of the quietest of recent years, and the experts agree that was the result of El Niño, an anomalous warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific. El Ninos generate strong west-to-east winds that can shear off developing storms in the Atlantic before they can grow into hurricanes.

The El Niño, however, is fading.

At the same time, says Crawford, Atlantic sea-surface temperatures are near record warmth, even warmer than they were in April 2005.

That was the year of Katrina.

Contact Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or