TAMPA - The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season could be slightly busier than average, with a good chance of six to nine hurricanes forming, federal forecasters said yesterday in a new way of making predictions.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials also said 12 to 16 named storms and two to five major hurricanes could form.
They said there is only a 60 to 70 percent chance for their predictions to come true, the first time officials gave a probability. They took that step following years of criticism of their long-range forecasts, which have usually been fairly accurate but in some cases have been way off.
For example, government forecasters expected 12 to 15 named storms in 2005, but there were 28, the busiest season on record.
Forecasters emphasize that residents should always be prepared no matter what seasonal forecasts say, because even a slow season can be disastrous. The government's seasonal forecasts do not predict whether, where, or when any of these storms will hit land.
Gerry Bell, the agency's lead forecaster for Atlantic hurricanes, said probabilities were included because people had come to rely too much on the forecasts. "Basically it was interpreted as a 100 percent chance," he said.
An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes of which two reach major status with winds of more than 110 miles per hour. This year should be about average or slightly more active, forecasters said.