With the official opening of the Atlantic hurricane season less than two weeks away -- and the remains of Tropical Cyclone Alberto, the first named storm of the year, dissipating several hundred miles off the Mid-Atlantic coast -- forecasters at Weather Services International (WSI) said Tuesday that they continue to expect a relatively quiet hurricane season this year.

The WSI forecast team expects 11 named storms in the Atlantic Basin this year, including six hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher), as it did in its previous forecast issued last month (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/eight/four, and it would be significantly less tropical activity than was observed in 2010 or 2011. While last year's Atlantic hurricane season didn't bring many tropical storms to Gulf of Mexico energy interests or the North American mainland, 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).

AccuWeather.com forecasters recently said they expect 12 named storms to form in the Atlantic this year, including five hurricanes, two of them major (see Daily GPI, April 27). Forecasters at Colorado State University have said they expect 10 named storms this year, including four hurricanes, two of them major (see Daily GPI, April 16).

Slightly cooler North Atlantic ocean temperatures, combined with a trend toward El Nino conditions, suggest a "notable reduction" in tropical storm activity this year, according to said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford.

"For this update, the slight increase in North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures during the last month was offset by slightly higher confidence in El Nino development, resulting in no change to our numbers," Crawford said. If the trend toward El Nino accelerates, WSI's forecast numbers could be revised lower, he said.

While the Atlantic hurricane season doesn't officially begin until June 1, Alberto formed off the coast of South Carolina Saturday, moving slowly toward the Southwest with maximum sustained wind speeds near 45 mph. A tropical storm watch was posted briefly along the South Carolina coast as Alberto moved to within 130 miles of Charleston, SC, but was discontinued Sunday. On Monday Alberto was losing strength and began moving east; by late Tuesday morning it was downgraded to a post-Tropical Cyclone and was moving toward the Northeast at about 17 mph.

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