Forecasters warned that the upcoming Atlantic cyclonic season would again be highly active, with a total of 17 tropical storms, including nine hurricanes, likely to form.
Of those hurricanes, five should be intense, meaning they will reach or exceed Category 3 on the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane
intensity scale, said leading experts William Gray and Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
While the numbers are above the historical average, they remain below last year's record
of 26 tropical storms and 14 hurricanes, seven of them intense.
The study said there was a 98 percent chance of a hurricane
making landfall in the United States, with an 88 percent likelihood of a Category 1 or 2 striking land and an 81 percent chance of a Category 3, 4 or 5 slamming ashore.
But Gray said it was unlikely the United States would be as hard hit as it has been in the past two years -- each of which saw four major hurricanes slam ashore.
"Even though we expect to see the current
active period of Atlantic major hurricane activity to continue for another 15 to 20 years, it is statistically unlikely that the coming 2006 and 2007 hurricane seasons, or the seasons that follow, will have the number of major hurricane US landfalls as we have seen in 2004-2005."
Experts believe the latest record
hurricane season was part of a cycle where periods of relative calm alternate with decades of intense activity.
Some scientists also believe global warming plays a crucial role by further increasing the temperature of warm ocean waters that provide fuel
to the hurricanes.
But the Colorado State University study played down the theory.
"No credible observational evidence is available or likely will be available in the next few decades which will directly associate global surface temperature change to changes in global frequency and intensity," it said. The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30.