The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins June 1, will start out with a less conducive environment for tropical storms than the 2011 season, resulting in a near-normal number of named storms, according to forecasters. expects 12 named storms this year, including five hurricanes, two of them major (Category 3 or higher).

Andover, MA-based Weather Services International (WSI) said this week it expects 11 named storms in the Atlantic Basin this year, including six hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes (see Daily GPI, April 25). That would be slightly lower than the 1950-2011 average of 12 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes and the 1995-2011 average of 15/8/4, WSI said. Forecasters at Colorado State University recently said they expect 10 named storms this year, including four hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes (see Daily GPI, April 16).'s forecast includes fewer named storms than previous years because the season will start with less-favorable conditions for the development of storms, said Meghan Evans, meteorologist.

"Strong high-level winds are in place over the western and central Caribbean, promoting increased wind shear. If these high-level winds do not abate, increased wind shear will inhibit tropical storm development early in the season," Evans said. And surface pressure across the Atlantic is not as low as it was last year, she said.

Also inhibiting tropical storm development will be an expected shift to an El Nino pattern -- the warming of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean -- by the peak of the hurricane season, which occurs in mid-September.

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 (see Daily GPI, Nov. 29, 2011).

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