After back to back hurricane seasons with 19 named storms, Drs. Phil Klotzbach and William Gray from Colorado State University believe the 2012 hurricane season will be much quieter. Their forecast calls for 10 named storms, 4 of those becoming hurricanes and 2 becoming intense hurricanes.
The global weather pattern that produced 2 cold winters over the eastern U.S. and 2 of the most active hurricane seasons on record in 2010 and 2011, is vastly different this year. While this winter was unseasonably warm, strong westerly winds in the mid-latitudes, drove colder ocean currents southward resulting in a cooling trend for the north Atlantic ocean.
Additionally, El Nino may replace La Nina as we head toward the peak of hurricane season starting in early August. La Nina dominated the last two hurricane seasons by significantly reducing the wind shear, allowing more storms to form. Many of the long range models, including the very reliable European model, indicate it is very likely El Nino will develop and increase the wind shear, reducing the number of storms.
The hurricane forecast team's probabilities for a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) making landfall on U.S. soil in 2012 are:
- A 42 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline (the long-term average probability is 52 percent).
- A 24 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31 percent).
Even though there is the potential for a quieter season, that doesn't mean we can't get hit. In 1992, there were only 6 named storms all season and the first one didn't form until mid August. That storm grew to become Hurricane Andrew, a category 5, that slammed into south Florida. Remember, these forecasts say nothing about where any particular storm will go since we can only predict the steering flow about two weeks out.
Regardless of how many storms form, it only takes one hit to make it a bad season for us. Every year you should prepare the same.