The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins June 1, will have “reduced activity” compared with 1981-2010 averages, according to forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU).

The CSU forecast team expects 10 named storms in the Atlantic Basin this year, including four hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). The 30-year average is 12 named storms, including 6.5 hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes.

“The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El Nino event this summer and fall are relatively high,” the CSU team said. “We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

There is a 24% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle west to Brownsville, TX; a 24% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the East coast; and a 42% probability of major hurricane coming ashore anywhere on the U.S. coastline — all below the average over the last century — the forecasters said. The probability of at least one major hurricane entering the Caribbean is 34%, compared to 42% for the last century.

In a long-range forecast issued in December, the CSU team said it expected an above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2012, with conditions that would typically create 12-15 named storms, including seven to nine hurricanes, with three to four of them major hurricanes (see Daily GPI, Dec. 9, 2011).

Forecasters at WSI Corp. have said that changing water temperatures in both the South Pacific and North Atlantic oceans could produce a relatively tame hurricane season this year (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2011). WSI forecasters said they expect 12 named storms, including seven hurricanes, three of them intense hurricanes. 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.

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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