Colorado State: Below Average Hurricane Activity Expected in 2012

NU Online News Service, March 22, 10:26 a.m. EST

A duo of hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University says conditions favor a less active Atlantic hurricane season in 2012.

“The combination of a warming tropical Pacific and a cooling tropical Atlantic are leading us to think that the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season will have less activity than the average 1981-2010 season,” according to an update from Phillip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray.

The qualitative forecast was released in advance of the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Fla. starting on March 26. A forecast based on mathematical formulas will be released April 4, they say.

The prediction based on the duo’s observations of conditions incorporates a cooling Atlantic Ocean over the last several months. Additionally, there is a “relatively high chance that El Niño will develop this summer and fall,” they say.

The El Niño weather pattern typically decreases hurricane activity because the wind shear it produces breaks up storm formations.

The weather phenomenon is important to hurricane prediction. In January, Klotzbach and Gray said chances were high for another active hurricane season in theAtlantic in 2012 if El Niño does not develop.

Accompanying the team’s most recent prediction is a warning: “We stress the need to realize that there is inherent uncertainty in seasonal [tropical-cyclone] prediction.”

“Hurricanes can make landfall in inactive seasons and do major damage,” they add. See hurricanes Alicia in 1983 and Andrew in 1992, the forecasters say.  

For 2011, the CSU forecast team had predicted that the hurricane season would be “well above average.” In June of last year, the team called for 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes. In the end, the season produced 20 named storms, with seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

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