FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- William Gray and Philip Klotzbach of the Colorado State University hurricane forecast team issued a report yesterday reducing the number of storms expected to form in the Atlantic basin this season.

However, the researchers still call for above-average hurricane activity this year and expect above-average tropical cyclone activity in August and September. That's despite an average start to the season with two named tropical storms forming in June and July.

Last year at this time, two major hurricanes had formed in the Atlantic basin.

"We're not reducing the number of hurricanes because we had only two named storms through late July," Gray said. "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."

Klotzbach and Gray call for a total of 15 named storms to form in the Atlantic basin this year. Of these, seven are predicted to become hurricanes and three are anticipated to evolve into intense hurricanes (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. This is down from the team's late May forecast of 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes. The long-term average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.

[Editor's note: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its updated 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook next Tuesday, Aug. 8, as the hurricane season enters the historical peak period from August through October.]

"Overall, we think the 2006 Atlantic basin tropical storm season will be somewhat active and about 140 percent of the long-term average," said Klotzbach, an atmospheric science researcher and lead member of Gray's forecast team. "This year it looks like the East Coast is more likely to be targeted by Atlantic basin hurricanes than the Gulf Coast, although the possibility exists that any point along the U.S. coast could be affected by a hurricane this year."

SOURCE: Colorado State University news release.