NOAA predicts a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - NOAA's Climate Prediction Center issued its outlook for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and near-normal development is expected.  

During the season, which lasts from June 1 through November 30, the CPC says there is a 70% chance that there will be anywhere from nine to fifteen named storms with winds of 39 mph or greater.  Of these storms, four to eight will strengthen into hurricanes.  One to three will ultimately become major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

An average season sees twelve named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.

"NOAA's outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years," said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. "But regardless of the outlook, it's vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew."  The 1992 season which saw Category 5 Andrew's development only produced six named storms.

Factors that favor tropical development include this year's high-activity area in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.  The 1980s were relatively quiet, but activity has been much greater for the last fifteen years.  Sea surface temperatures in most of the tropical Atlantic are also near-average.

Two factors that could keep storms at bay are strong wind shear, hostile to hurricane development, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.  Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction center says that if El Niño develops later this season, conditions could be less favorable for hurricanes in the peak months (August-October).  Then we'd likely see those numbers at the lower end of the range.

It's important to remember that this outlook does not predict how many storms will make landfall.  It only takes one storm to hit land and cause widespread destruction.