Hurricane forecasters predict quieter storm season
4 hurricanes -- 2 major -- expected to form, group says
ORLANDO, Fla. – With the start of the 2012 hurricane season two months away, the forecasting team at Colorado State University has predicted a slightly below-average season.
It called Wednesday for 10 systems to become at least tropical storms and earn names, with four of those becoming hurricanes, and two becoming major hurricanes, at Category 3 or higher on the Saffir/Simpson scale, with top sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
The historical average (1950 to 2000) is 9.6, 5.9 and 2.3.
The team of Philip Klotzbach and William Gray also gave a 24 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula; the historical average is 31 percent, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.
The Colorado State team, and other season prognosticators, continually stress that season forecasts are of interest mostly as mental exercises and should have no impact on how people prepare for hurricane season.
They cite as examples 2011, which tied with 2010, 1995 and 1887 for third busiest on record, but which got little attention because only Irene was a newsmaker. And the 1992 season, which produced only seven named storms, among them the catastrophic Andrew.
They remind people in hurricane zones that there's no magic number above which the world is going to end and below which they are completely safe. Residents are urged to prepare every year as if at least one hurricane will hit them, which of course could happen in either a busy year or a quiet one.
The Colorado State team said four seasons since 1949 showed the kinds of ocean and atmospheric conditions seen this February and March of this year:1957, 1965, 2001 and 2009. Three of these four years had below-average activity.
As always, a major factor is El Niño, the warm water phenomenon that tends to hinder hurricane activity
"We have witnessed cooling of the tropical Atlantic during this past winter, and there is a fairly high likelihood that an El Niño event will develop this summer," Klotzbach said Wednesday in a release.
But the team warned it still believes the hurricane season remains in a multi-decade stretch of above average storm activity that could go on for the next 10 to 15 years.
The initial Colorado State forecast, in December, had — for the first time in three decades — given just probabilities. It updates its forecast on June 1, the official start of the hurricane season, and on Aug. 3. The season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
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