Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Storms Expected to Be Few

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Storms Expected to Be Few

Article excerpt

FORECAST: Shift in weather patterns suggests a quiet hurricane season this year


After two very busy hurricane seasons, 2012 should be much quieter, according to forecasters with Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project.

Weather patterns since the end of the 2011 hurricane season last November have shifted dramatically, making it less likely that the Atlantic this year will support the high numbers of storms it did in 2010 and 2011.

Fewer than 12 Atlantic tropical storms are forecast this year, project scientist Phil Klotzbach said during the National Hurricane Conference here Wednesday.

By comparison, 19 named storms formed each of the last two years.

The six-month hurricane season begins June 1.

Based on the past 30 years, about 12 storms form each year, with six or seven becoming hurricanes.

The Tropical Meteorology Project has been forecasting hurricane activity ahead of the hurricane season since the 1980s. Since then, new observations and better understanding of the atmosphere has improved predictions. But even with improvements, the forecasts are rarely precise, giving only a general idea of what to expect.

The first of three seasonal forecasts from Klotzbach will formally come out on April 4, followed by others from various weather prediction centers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its first hurricane season outlook on May 24.

Seasonal forecasts say little about whether a storm will hit the United States. Some of the most calm hurricane years have brought devastating storms, such as Hurricane Andrew, which destroyed about 250,000 homes in South Florida in late August 1992. Andrew, the first named storm of that year, was a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

On average each year, the U.S. has a 50/50 chance of getting hit by a major hurricane -- a Category 3 or higher, with winds more than 110 mph. There is very little correlation between the number of storms churning in the Atlantic and the number of storms that strike the U. …

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