Another above-average Atlantic hurricane season is expected next year, according to forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU), who said they expect conditions that would typically create 12-15 named storms, including sevem to nine hurricanes, with three to four of them major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

"We have been in an active era for Atlantic basin tropical cyclones since 1995 and we expect that typical conditions associated with a positive Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation (AMO) and strong thermohaline circulation (THC) [will] continue," the CSU forecast team said. "Several forecast models and a qualitative analysis of current conditions in the tropical Pacific indicate that the odds of an El Nino developing this year are somewhat higher than they have been during the past couple of years. In addition, tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures tend to cool following La Nina events (such as we are currently experiencing), and these will also have to be closely monitored for the upcoming hurricane season.

"We anticipate that the 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be primarily determined by the strength of the THC/AMO and by the state of ENSO [the El Nino-Southern Oscillation]."

While the forecasters said there was a 45% chance that conditions will be similar to seasons that have produced 12-15 named storms, they also said they were ending their 20-year practice of predicting specific numbers of hurricanes in their December forecasts.

"Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill, even though the hindcast studies on which they were based had considerable skill," the CSU team said. A breakdown of several long-term relationships that worked well in hindcast data but not in real-time forecasting and the lack of models with the ability to accurately predict ENSO months in advance were the primary reasons for the lack of skill in previous December forecasts, the team said.

The CSU team is scheduled to issue its first quantitative forecast for the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season April 4. The hurricane season begins June 1.

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season didn't bring many tropical storms to Gulf of Mexico energy interests or the North American mainland, but it did produce the third-highest number of tropical storms since records began in 1851 and continued a trend of active hurricane seasons begun in 1995, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (see Daily GPI, Nov. 29). The consensus forecast this year was for an above-average hurricane season. CSU (see Daily GPI, June 2), WSI Corp. (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22), AccuWeather.com (see Daily GPI, Aug. 12), MDA EarthSat (see Daily GPI, May 18) and WeatherBELL Analytics chief meteorologist Joe Bastardi (see Daily GPI, Aug. 17) all forecast above-average numbers of named storms and hurricanes.

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