2012 Hurricane Season Predictions

As June 1, 2012 draws nearer, we will see the start of the 2012 Hurricane Season.  The 2012 hurricane season promises to be less active than normal, and close to half as active as last year, when 20 tropical cyclones, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes were recorded, according to a forecast released today by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project. Forecasters Philip Klotzbach and William Gray predict the 2012 season, which begins June 1, will have 4 hurricanes, compared with an average of 6.5 hurricanes between 1981 and 2010, and 10 named storms, compared with an average of 12.

The forecasters predict that two of the hurricanes will be major storms, ranked as Category 3 or higher, with winds greater than 111 mph, which is just about average. But there will only be a total of three days when hurricanes will have that major storm status, compared with an average of 3.9 days.

The duo’s April 2011 forecast called for nine hurricanes, of which five would be major, and 16 named storms.

The chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the United States this year is about 80 percent of the average, and the total tropical cyclone activity will be only 75 percent of the long term average.

“Although that is welcome news for the Gulf Coast, it certainly is not a signal for us to let our guard down,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young. “Rather, our citizens should continue to make preparations for the upcoming hurricane season since any major storm can cause catastrophic property devastation and loss of human life.”

In making their forecast, Klotzbach and Gray are only comparing their predicted storm activity to 29 years of hurricane records. Last year, the pair compared t

heir predictions against a 50-year storm history from 1950 to 2000.

Under the 50-year scenario, there was an average 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes.

The forecasting duo credit a combination of cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and an expected return to El Nino warmer than normal surface water conditions in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean for the reduced tropical storm activity.

The lower Atlantic water temperatures make it more difficult for storms to form, as does higher air pressures in that region that the forecasters say will occur this summer and fall.

The El Nino conditions historically have prompted greater wind shear in the upper atmosphere in the Atlantic, which tends to blow the tops off of thunderstorms, again making it more difficult for hurricanes to form.

In predicting a return to El Nino conditions in the Pacific, however, the forecasters are a bit ahead of the official National Weather Service forecast.

The service’s Climate Prediction Center on Monday agreed that a two-year stretch of La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific, representing cooler than normal surface water temperatures, has weakened. But the center’s prediction only calls for a change to neutral conditions, neither cooler nor warmer, by April, with a 40 percent chance of it remaining neutral through December, compared to a 38 percent chance of turning to warmer El Nino conditions. The Meteorology Project will update its predictions on June 1. The National Weather Service will issue its own predictions at about the same time.

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