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Forecast is for 'normal' hurricane season, a bit wimpier than last year

The Atlantic hurricane season may be quieter this year than last, predict AccuWeather.com forecasters. A 'near normal' 2012 would see at least a dozen tropical storms and two major hurricanes.

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Hurricane Irene passes over Puerto Rico in late August last year. Compared with recent years, the coming 2012 hurricane season looks to be a bit calmer, forecasters say.

NOAA/AP/File

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In a year of wild weather so far, hardly anyone would use the word “normal” in predicting what to expect in the future – except for long-range forecasters talking about the coming hurricane season.

On Thursday, AccuWeather.com predicted a “near normal” season of hurricanes. To the weather forecasters in State College, Pa., this means 12 named tropical storms, five named hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. If this forecast materializes, it would be a marked improvement over last year, when there were 19 named tropical storms, seven hurricanes, and four major hurricanes, including Irene, which caused $18.7 billion in damage along the East Coast.

“Even though we are forecasting a normal hurricane season, it only takes one hurricane to ruin your day,” says Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist and lead hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather.

Forecasters say making predictions far in advance of the storms allows communities to begin planning, and reminds people that they need to have an evacuation plan in place, even in noncoastal areas like Vermont, which got hammered by floods after remnants of Irene dumped vast amounts of rain on the state. Additionally, forecasters say, the public has a lot of curiosity about the coming hurricane season, and, over the years, long-term forecasts – created from statistical models – have become increasingly accurate.

“The computer models get a little better each year,” says Mr. Kottlowski. However, he also notes it is still difficult to predict where the storms might hit –whether it will be the East Coast or the Gulf Coast.

The AccuWeather forecast is similar to a prediction by Philip Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University, who in early April predicted 10 named storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center won’t issue its own prediction until May 24, about a week before the official start to the hurricane season on June 1. 

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