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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 11:09 GMT


Scientists predict storms beyond the horizon

The US hurricane damage bill averages $3.5 billion per year

A team of British scientists has produced the longest range forecast for US hurricanes yet developed - predicting four powerful storms in 2000.

Using advanced statistical methods and historical climate data going back to 1950, the team from University College London predicts one hurricane and three tropical storms will strike the US between June and November next year.

[ image: The effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 are still being felt]
The effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 are still being felt
The forecast, produced by Dr Mark Saunders and Dr Paul Rockett, of the university's Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre, is based on a model which helped the team predict the unusual severity of this year's hurricane season.

Their forecast of four tropical storms, two hurricanes and one intense hurricane reaching US landfall agrees well with actual landfalling totals to date - five tropical storms, three hurricanes and one intense hurricane.

News of the forecast comes as millions struggle to cope with the aftermath of a massive cyclone which tore through eastern India.

Cost of disaster

The predictions could help reduce the human and financial cost of violent storms.

America spends $3.5 billion on hurricane damage in an average year - the devastating winds are the country's costliest natural disasters.

[ image:  ]
The UCL work is supported by a joint venture between the British Government and a consortium of UK insurance companies known as the Tsunami Initiative.

Mike Cooper, Tsunami board representative for the CGU Group, said: "The insurance industry has operated for many years with only limited data on the hazards that drive its claims experience.

"This is our first attempt to take leading-edge science and tailor it to meet our competitive needs. We are delighted with the progress so far."

When hurricanes occur in other parts of the world they are called typhoons or cyclones.

Dr Saunders' team plans to issue the first ever long range forecasts for typhoons striking Japan, Taiwan and other north-west Pacific countries in early January, 2000.

Predictions for cyclones hitting Queensland, Australia, will be issued on April 1, 2000.

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US National Hurricane Centre

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