NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season
in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in
the Atlantic Basin this season, NOAA announced last week from Miami at
its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to
the Hurricane Research Division.
For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate
Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named
storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight
will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher),
and of those, one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds
of 111 mph or higher, ranking category 3, 4 or 5).
Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent
years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. “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.”
Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on
August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that
produced only six named storms.
Favoring storm development in 2012 is the continuation of the overall
conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in
1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much
of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main
Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they
persist, are: strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane
formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface
temperatures in the far Eastern Atlantic.
“Another potentially competing climate factor would be El Niņo,
if it develops by late summer to early fall. In that case, conditions
could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification
during the peak months (August-October) of the season, possibly
shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range,”
said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s
Climate Prediction Center.
"NOAA's improvement in monitoring and predicting hurricanes has been
remarkable over the decades since Andrew, in large part because of our
sustained commitment to research and better technology. But more work
remains to unlock the secrets of hurricanes, especially in the area of
rapid intensification and weakening of storms,” said Lubchenco. “We're
stepping up to meet this challenge through our Hurricane Forecast
Improvement Project, which has already demonstrated exciting early
progress toward improving storm intensity forecasts."
Lubchenco added that more accurate forecasts about a storm's intensity
at landfall and extending the forecast period beyond five days will
help America become a more weather-ready nation.
In a more immediate example of research supporting hurricane
forecasting, NOAA this season is introducing enhancements to two of the
computer models available to hurricane forecasters - the Hurricane
Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) and the Geophysical Fluid
Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) models.
The HWRF model has been upgraded with a higher resolution and improved
atmospheric physics. This latest version has demonstrated a 20 to 25
percent improvement in track forecasts and a 15 percent improvement in
intensity forecasts relative to the previous version while also showing
improvement in the representation of storm structure and size.
Improvements to the GFDL model for 2012 include physics upgrades that
are expected to reduce or eliminate a high bias in the model's
The seasonal outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land.
Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts are provided by
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, which continuously monitors the
tropics for storm development and tracking throughout the season using
an array of tools including satellites, advance computer modeling,
hurricane hunter aircraft, and land- and ocean-based observations
sources such as radars and buoys.
Next week, May 27- June 2, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week to
help prepare residents of hurricane-prone areas, video and audio public
service announcements featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA
administrator are available in both English and Spanish.
“Every hurricane season we ask families, communities, and businesses to
ensure they are prepared and visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes,” said Tim
Manning, FEMA deputy administrator for protection and national
preparedness. “Being prepared includes developing a family emergency
plan, putting an emergency kit together or updating your existing kit,
keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting
involved to ensure your community is ready.”
NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin is for a near-normal
hurricane season and the Central Pacific basin is expected to have a
below-normal season. NOAA will issue an updated seasonal outlook for
the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the
historical peak of the season.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's
environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun,
and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For a more technical discussion of the NOAA hurricane season forecast, go to