More named storms than previously forecast are likely to form in the Atlantic Basin this year, according to Weather Services International (WSI), despite nearly a month passing since Tropical Storm Debby's brief trek through the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) (see Daily GPI, June 26).

The WSI forecast team now expects 13 named storms in the Atlantic Basin this year, including six hurricanes, three of them major (Category 3 or higher), up from its previous 12/six/three forecast (see Daily GPI, June 27) and its initial 11/six/two forecast, which was issued prior to the official start of the hurricane season (see Daily GPI, May 23; April 25).

The Atlantic hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, got off to an early start this year with the formation of Tropical Storms Alberto and Beryl in May.

If WSI's latest forecast numbers are accurate, the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season would nearly match the 1950-2011 average of 12 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes and would come in under the 1995-2011 average of 15/eight/four, but it would produce significantly less tropical activity than was observed in 2010 or 2011.

"Although we got off to a fast start in 2012, we feel that the heart of the season will be much less active than the last two as an El Nino event continues to mature slowly and provide an unfavorable environment for tropical development," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. "However, the combination of a fast start and the recent increase in North Atlantic surface temperature anomalies over the last month dictate that we make another small increase to our forecast numbers. Further, the slow emergence of El Nino impacts as summer transitions into fall typically means that the bulk of the activity occurs during August-September, with a fairly quiet back half of the season."

Debby, the fourth named storm of the 2012 season, formed near the Yucatan peninsula June 23, forcing offshore GOM oil and gas operators to evacuate workers from platforms and shut in production temporarily. The season's third named system, Chris, formed southeast of the Canadian Maritimes June 19 and, despite becoming the season's first hurricane for a few hours on June 21, never threatened the North American mainland.

There is no particularly strong North American landfall signal for hurricanes this year, Crawford said. "The landfall of Irene in 2011 was the first hurricane landfall in three years, which, in the context of the historical record, is an unusually long lull," he said. "For 2012, the current forecast from our landfall model depicts slightly below-normal probabilities of landfall from Florida and up the East Coast, with slightly above-normal probabilities in the Gulf."

The consensus forecast this year has been that the hurricane season is likely to produce fewer tropical storms than seen during the last few years (see Daily GPI, June 4).

While last year's Atlantic hurricane season didn't bring many tropical storms to GOM 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).

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Tuesday morning was tracking a non-tropical low pressure system about 575 miles east-northeast of Bermuda. The system had only a 10% chance of becoming a subtropical or tropical cyclone and no other tropical cyclone formation was expected through Thursday, NHC said.

©Copyright 2012 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.