The chances of powerful Atlantic hurricanes barreling into the United States this season are much greater than usual, a British-led group of scientists said on Tuesday.

Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) predicted five tropical storm strikes on the United States, including two hurricanes this year.

"Based on current and projected signals, TSR's March forecast predicts Atlantic basin and U.S. landfalling hurricane activity to be about 75 percent above the 1950-2006 norm in 2007, rising from 60 percent above norm" forecast in December, said the London-based consortium.

The experts on insurance, risk management and seasonal climate forecasting said it was the highest March forecast for activity since 1984.

The consortium also predicted an 86 percent chance of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

The forecast predicted 17 tropical storms for the Atlantic basin as a whole, with nine of those being hurricanes and four intense hurricanes.

TSR also predicted two tropical storms hitting the Caribbean Lesser Antilles, including one hurricane.

"The El Nino conditions present since September 2006 dissipated rapidly during February," explained Professor Mark Saunders, the TSR lead scientist from University College London (UCL).

"The sudden El Nino dissipation is the main reason for the TSR forecast for hurricane activity in 2007 rising from 60 percent above-norm in our long-range forecast last December, and also in our January and February updates to 75 percent above-norm in our March forecast."

The deadly 2005 season produced a record 27 named storms and 15 hurricanes, seven of them intense.

They included Hurricane Katrina, which swept westward across Florida before smashing into New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

It was also the costliest hurricane season, with damage estimated at more than 100 billion dollars (75 billion euros).