NOAA raises 2012 hurricane season prediction

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The month of August got off to a booming start in the tropics, and according to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, that trend may not be ending soon.

Forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center expect El Nino to develop in the tropical Pacific in August or September.  This pattern will increase wind shear in the tropical Atlantic, making it difficult for storms to form.

Despite the expected El Nino pattern, which usually suppresses hurricane development in the Atlantic, forecasters have increased the number of expected named storms to 12 to 17.  The number of total hurricanes expected to develop are between 5 and 8, with 2 or 3 of those becoming major storms with winds of 111 mph or greater.

These numbers are higher than the initial outlook issued in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major storms.

"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."

Alberto and Beryl formed even before the official start of hurricane season on June 1.

An average season in the Atlantic produces 12 storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes