Normal Hurricane Season Predicted
Government meteorologists are predicting a “near normal” Atlantic hurricane season for 2012.
Citing atmospheric and ocean conditions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that nine to 15 named storms could develop over the course of the season, with four to eight reaching hurricane strength.
“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said Jane Lubchenco, the agency’s administrator, during a May 24 news conference. “But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared.”
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1-Nov. 30, but it got off to an early start when Tropical Storm Alberto formed off the South Carolina coast, May 20. Currents carried the storm northeastward into the central Atlantic, where it dissipated without threatening land.
Near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic, strong wind shear and cooler sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic were among factors cited in the NOAA forecast.
“Another potentially competing climate factor would be El Niño if it develops by late summer to early fall,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “In that case, conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months [August-October] of the season, possibly shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range.”
Computer models used for forecasting have been upgraded for 2012. The Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model that will be used has demonstrated a 20 to 25 percent tracking improvement and a 15 percent improvement in intensity forecasts over a previous version, officials said. Physics upgrades in another forecasting model are also expected to produce more accurate intensity forecasts.
Of the four to eight storms expected to reach minimum hurricane strength of 74 mph, one to three will become major hurricanes with winds topping 111 mph, officials said.
In the past 30 years, an average of 12 named storms have developed in a typical hurricane season. NOAA did not predict how many of this year’s storms would make landfall.
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