Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) expect a total of 14 named storms in the Atlantic Basin this year, including six hurricanes, two of them major (Category 3 or higher), a slight increase from activity they predicted at the beginning of the 2012 hurricane season (see Daily GPI, June 4) and about the same numbers experienced in a typical season over the past six decades.

"We anticipate a slightly below average remainder of the hurricane season this year due to an anticipated weak El Nino event and a tropical Atlantic that is less favorable than in the past two years," the CSU forecast team said. "This forecast is a slight increase from activity predicted in early June due to a slower-than-anticipated onset of El Nino and a somewhat more favorable tropical Atlantic than observed earlier this year."

In April the CSU forecast was 10 named storms, including four hurricanes, two of them major (see Daily GPI, April 16); by the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1 that forecast had been nudged higher to 13/5/2.

In an extended range forecast issued Friday, the CSU team said it expects 10 named storms, including five hurricanes, two of them major, to form during the remainder of the season, which comes to an end on Nov. 30. The 1950-2011 average is 12 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes and the 1995-2011 average is 15/8/4.

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). Many of the storms stayed out in the middle of the Atlantic.

The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall and Caribbean major hurricane activity for the remainder of the season is estimated to be slightly below its long-period average, according to CSU. There is a 28% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, TX; a 28% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast; and a 48% probability of a major hurricane coming ashore anywhere on the U.S. coastline -- all below the average over the last century and unchanged from the previous CSU outlook -- the forecasters said. The probability of at least one major hurricane entering the Caribbean is 39%, also unchanged from the previous CSU prediction.

On Monday the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Tropical Storm Ernesto, which formed last week, was located about 400 miles east of Honduras and was expected to become a hurricane late in the day. Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving west-northwest at about 9 mph on a track expected to reach the Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday morning and travel into southern Mexico by Friday, NHC said. Mexico had issued a hurricane warning for portions of the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize issued a hurricane watch for its entire coastline, while a tropical storm watch was discontinued in the Cayman Islands. Tropical storm warnings and watches were in effect in portions of Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The season's sixth named storm, Florence, was downgraded to a Post-Tropical Remnant Low on Monday as its maximum sustained winds fell to 35 mph about 1,500 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, NHC said.

The Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early start this year with the formation of Tropical Storms Alberto and Beryl in May. 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. 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 (see Daily GPI, June 26).

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. Last month Weather Services International (WSI) said more named storms than it had previously forecast are likely to form in the Atlantic Basin this year (see Daily GPI, July 25; June 27). The WSI forecast team expects 13 named storms, including six hurricanes, three of them major. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who have said there is a 70% chance of nine to 15 named storms in the Atlantic Basin, including four to eight hurricanes, with one to three major hurricanes (see Daily GPI, May 25), are scheduled to release an update tropical forecast on Thursday.

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