Changing water temperatures in both the South Pacific and North Atlantic oceans could produce a relatively tame 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, according to forecasters at Andover, MA-based WSI. Corp.
"After back-to-back La Nina winters, most models are suggesting an end to La Nina or possibly an emergence of El Nino by late next summer," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. "This outlook, combined with the fact that the North Atlantic Ocean has recently cooled to levels not observed in a decade, is suggestive of a less active tropical season in 2012, at least relative to recent active period (1995-2011) normals."
In their first forecast for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, WSI forecasters said they expect 12 named storms, including seven hurricanes, three of them intense hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). Those numbers fall between the long-term (1950-2011) averages of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two intense hurricanes, and the averages from the more active recent period (1995-2011) of 15/8/4.
Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) recently said they expect an above-average hurricane season in 2012 (see Daily GPI, Dec. 9). WSI's numbers match the low end of the CSU forecast, which calls for conditions that would typically create 12-15 named storms, including seven to nine hurricanes, with three to four of them major hurricanes. Like WSI, the CSU forecasters said the prospect of an El Nino developing and the expected cooling of Atlantic sea surface temperatures influenced their tropical storm forecast.
With more than five months remaining before the June 1 start of the 2012 hurricane season, Crawford said there is no particularly strong indication of possible hurricane landfalls.
"For 2012, our landfall model depicts close-to-normal probabilities of landfall along the U.S. coastline, slightly elevated chances in the Gulf and Florida and slightly reduced chances along the East Coast," Crawford said.
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).
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