The 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season, which officially ends Friday, produced 19 named storms, including 10 hurricanes, one of them major (Category 3 or higher). It continued a decades-long high-activity era in the Atlantic Basin, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The number of named storms this year was well above the average of 12 and the number of hurricanes was above the average of six, but the number of major hurricanes was below the average of three, according to NOAA, which classified the 2012 hurricane seas as above normal.

“2012 was an active year but not exceptionally so as there were 10 busier years in the last three decades,” NOAA said.

It was the second consecutive year that the mid-Atlantic and Northeast suffered devastating impacts from a named storm. In 2011 it was Hurricane Irene, which turned out the lights on millions of East Coast residents and in doing so cut demand for natural gas by about 2.8 Bcf (see Daily GPI, Aug. 30, 2011). This year the region was hit by Hurricane Sandy, which struck the New Jersey coastline Oct. 30 (see Daily GPI, Nov. 14).

But it was the seventh consecutive year that no major hurricanes hit the United States. The only major hurricane was Hurricane Michael, a Category 3 storm that stayed over the open Atlantic. And Hurricane Isaac was the only storm to cause significant disruption to energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico (see Daily GPI, Sept. 6).

“Several storms this year were short in duration, weak in intensity, and went largely unnoticed by the general public because they stayed out over the Atlantic,” NOAA said. “A persistent jet stream pattern over the eastern portion of the nation helped steer many of this season’s storms away from the United States. The number of named storms and hurricanes was higher than predicted in NOAA’s pre-season outlook [see Daily GPI, May 25], in large part because El Nino — which likely would have suppressed overall storm activity — never materialized as predicted by many climate models.”

The current era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes began in 1995. Since then, more than 70% of hurricane seasons, including 2012, have been above normal.

“Historically, Atlantic high-activity eras have lasted 25 to 40 years, with the previous one occurring from the mid-1930s until 1970,” NOAA said. “Several inter-related atmospheric and oceanic factors contribute to these high activity years, including warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures, an enhanced West African monsoon, and reduced vertical wind shear.”

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