New Orleans may have dodged the full force of Hurricane Gustav, but scientists say the worst may be yet to come. Forecasters this week warned that September will bring more furious tempests that promise to continue last month's turmoil.
Veteran hurricane forecaster William Gray and his colleague Philip Klotzbach, both atmospheric scientists at Colorado State University, predict that there will be five named tropical storms – those with winds at least 39 miles per hour -- and two Category 3 or above hurricanes (winds greater than 110 miles per hour). Katrina, you’ll recall, was a category 3 by the time it smacked ashore in Louisiana.
The problem? Weather conditions are perfect for brewing storms. Gray and Klotzbach say a combination of higher water temperatures and extremely low pressure are stirring up an unusually non-stop hurricane season. The Atlantic season usually brings about 10 named tropical storms and two intense hurricanes. This year, the team predicts a total of 17 named storms and five major hurricanes.
It's no surprise that the hurricane season will be particularly intense: Scientists forecast an active hurricane season back in May, and August's four named storms confirmed they were right. As Gustav peters out, a string of tropical storms Hanna, Ike, and Josephine is already making its way across the Atlantic Ocean threatening to create more trouble. Hanna left dozens dead and flooded cities when it swept through Haiti over the past two days.
Image courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.