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Up-and-coming N.C. State team predict 8 to 9 hurricanes in '07

    RALEIGH, N.C. - The up-and-coming hurricane research team that accurately predicted a mild 2006 storm season, despite the dire predictions of more established forecasters, say that the 2007 season will be much more active.

Researchers at North Carolina State University, in their third year of hurricane forecasting, said the Atlantic basin will brew eight to nine hurricanes, including four or five major hurricanes. Forecasters said there is a 75 percent chance a hurricane will make landfall along the eastern seaboard or hit the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

The team also estimated a 56 percent chance that a major hurricane will strike the Gulf Coast, and a 10 percent chance of a major hurricane striking the southeast coast. Storms with sustained winds of at least 111 mph are considered major hurricanes.

In 2006, the N.C. State team predicted that one or two hurricanes would strike the East Coast and estimated five or six hurricanes would form in the Atlantic Ocean east of the United States. Five hurricanes formed that year and none made landfill. A total of 10 named Atlantic storms formed that year.

William Gray, who has become the nation's most reliable hurricane forecaster over the past 24 years, had estimated last season would produce 17 named storms and nine hurricanes. The National Hurricane Center also predicted an active hurricane season, saying 13 to 16 named storms would form.

The N.C. State team also accurately predicted the 2005 storm total, saying at the time that five to six hurricanes would form along the eastern seaboard and two or three would make landfall. The season produced seven hurricanes from that region _ two of which hit the East Coast.

This year, the N.C. State scientists have expanded their unique model to analyze how many storms will make landfall in the Gulf of Mexico and how many will make landfall along the Atlantic seaboard.

The team focuses much of their research on the difference in water temperatures between the north Atlantic and south Atlantic. If tropical water is warmer than normal in the north and cooler than normal in the south, hurricane activity increases, the team says.

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