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Hurricane season forecast downgraded

AUGUST 8 - This year’s hurricane season won’t be as severe as forecast earlier, hurricane researchers at Colorado State University say.

A report issued last week by the university calls for 15 named storms this season, down from the forecast in May that called for 17. Of the 15 storms seven are predicted to become hurricanes, three of which are expected to evolve into Category 3 or higher ranking on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

“We’re not reducing the number of hurricanes because we had only two named storms through late July,” researcher William Gray says in a release. “It’s a general erosion of a number of factors. The tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are not quite as warm, tropical Atlantic surface pressure is not quite as low, the eastern equatorial Pacific has warmed some and trade winds in the tropical Atlantic are slightly stronger.”

Hurricane activity this year is still expected be “above average,” the report says. The average is 9.6 named storms and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year. The researchers say there is a 64-percent chance of a major hurricane making landfall along the East Coast (including the Florida Peninsula) and a 26-percent chance for the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Texas.

For more hurricane forecasts for the 2006 season go to the team’s Web site.

— Jason Fell