(CNN) -- U.S. hurricane forecasters Monday predicted a busy 2004
Atlantic hurricane season based on a trend of above-normal activity
during seven of the last nine seasons.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting
for 12 to 15 tropical storms to form during the season, which runs
from June 1 to November 30. Six to eight storms are predicted to
become hurricanes with two to four storms developing into major
hurricanes ranked as Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale
of hurricane strength.
"NOAA's 2004 Atlantic hurricane season outlook indicates a 50 percent
probability of an above-normal season, a 40 percent probability of a
near-normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal
season," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director
of the NOAA National Weather Service.
A Category 3 storm has winds between 111-130 mph and can cause
extensive damage. The worst storm, a Category 5, has winds greater
than 155 mph and can cause catastrophic damage.
Previous hurricane seasons similar to NOAA's forecast averaged two to
three hurricanes that made landfall in the continental United States,
and one to two hurricanes in the region around the Caribbean Sea.
NOAA's forecast is based on the likelihood that above-normal activity
that began in 1995 will continue. Since 1995, the Atlantic hurricane
seasons have been above normal except for the El Nino years of 1997
NOAA scientists are predicting conditions through July that are
neutral for either an El Nino or La Nina to form with a likelihood of
these conditions will continue through the peak August-October months
of the hurricane season.