NOAA raises hurricane season forecast

by Sean Morris
CNN Meteorologist

NOAA released its August update of the 2012 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season on Thursday. The new numbers show a busier than normal season with an increase in named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes compared to NOAA’s initial outlook issued in May.

NOAA is now predicting 12-17 named storms, five to eight hurricanes and two to three of those hurricanes could be major hurricanes (categories 3, 4, and 5 with winds 111 mph and greater). The inital outlook issued in May called for nine to 15 named storms, four to eight hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes. An average season produces twelve named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“We are increasing the likelihood of an  above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and  warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,”  said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane  forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “These conditions are  linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in  1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active  season.”

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is off to an early start with seven named storms and two hurricanes forming before peak season which occurs the second week in September.

However, the hurricane season could come to an abrupt end earlier than normal. Forecasters say El Nino will develop in the eastern Pacific in late August or early September. El Nino typically causes higher than normal wind shear in the Atlantic Basin. Wind shear typically hinders tropical cyclone development.

“We have a long way to go until the end of  the season, and we shouldn’t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting  director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.   “Hurricanes often bring dangerous inland flooding as we saw a year ago  in the Northeast with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Even people who  live hundreds of miles from the coast need to remain vigilant through the  remainder of the season.”

Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1 and ends on November 30.

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