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    Above-Average Hurricane Season Predicted

    Analysts change forecast in light of increased activity; nine hurricanes expected in 2008.

    NEW YORK -- Recent warming in the Atlantic basin caused analysts to increase their forecast for the number of named storms and hurricanes for the 2008 hurricane season, WSI Corp. seasonal forecaster, Todd Crawford, said in a statement.

    WSI increased the number of named storms expected from 14 to 15, and the number of hurricanes from eight to nine, marking an above-average forecast. To date, the 2008 season produced four named storms, including the category-two Hurricane Dolly, which hit Texas shores on earlier this week with 100-mile-per-hour winds.

    "The relatively early occurrence of the first intense hurricane, Bertha, is also usually an omen for a very active season," Crawford said in a statement.

    The petroleum industry closely monitors storm activity, especially in light of the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which significantly offset U.S. Gulf Coast oil refinery production in 2005. On Tuesday, the U.S. government's Minerals Management Service stated oil companies had shut down roughly 5 percent of the Gulf of Mexico's oil and natural gas production as a precaution due to Dolly.

    "Since 1995, most tropical seasons have been more active than the long-term averages, due to warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures. We do not see any reason why this active regime will not continue in 2008," Crawford stated.

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