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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
'Above normal' hurricanes in 2006
Eye of a hurricane (Eumetsat)
The forecast is for another very active season
This year's Atlantic hurricane season will be "above normal", according to the US climate agency.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) predicts there will be 13-16 named storms, four of which will be "major storms".

But it says 2006 will be less active than last year's record-breaking season which saw Hurricane Katrina cause widespread devastation.

The US hurricane season starts on 1 June and lasts until 30 November.

"Noaa is predicting an above normal hurricane season, with 13-16 named storms, of which eight to 10 are predicted to become hurricanes," the agency's administrator, Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, said on Monday.

He said four to six of those hurricanes were predicted to become major storms, reaching category three or above.

"Although we do not anticipate reaching or exceeding last year's extraordinary tally of storms, these forecast numbers exceed the seasonal forecast average," he told reporters at a news conference.

Vice Admiral Lautenbacher said the seasonal average involved 11 named storms, including six hurricanes - two of which go on to be category three or above.

"In many respects, our folks are taking the pulse of the planet and developing the kind of forecasts that will be more accurate and better able to prepare the public in the future."

'One-stop shop'

Last year's season saw an unprecedented 28 storms, 15 of which went on to become hurricanes. Noaa had predicted that there would be up to nine hurricanes.

A hurricane is a spinning vortex of winds swirling round a eye of very low pressure
Warm, moist air is drawn upwards around the eye
Cooler dry air is sucked downwards by the low pressure centre
Banks of thunderstorms surround the edges

The worst storm to hit the US last year was Hurricane Katrina. More than 1,300 people who were caught in its path were killed, and it left more than 80% of New Orleans under water.

The total damage bill was estimated to be $96bn (51bn).

Vice Admiral Lautenbacher said thousands of hours of research had gone into this year's outlook to ensure improved accuracy.

"Our five-day forecast today is as accurate as our three-day forecast was a decade ago."

Noaa will launch a website in the summer that it says will act as a "one-stop shop" for people seeking information on hurricanes.

It will provide a range of data, from forecasts to details of recovery processes following any major damage.

"Remember, it only takes one hurricane in your neighbourhood to make it a bad season," Vice Admiral Lautenbacher remarked.

See the devastation caused by previous hurricanes

Storm debate swirls ahead of season
08 May 06 |  Science/Nature

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