From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published August 9, 2012 05:33 PM

2012 Hurricane Season Update

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook

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The season experienced an early burst of activity followed by an extended period of silence. Tropical Storm Alberto and Tropical Storm Beryl both developed several days before the official start of the season, an occurrence not seen since the 1908 Atlantic hurricane season. When Tropical Storm Debby formed on June 23, it was the first time ever that four storms formed before July since record keeping began in 1851. Despite the early start, no further storms formed through all of July. This streak ended in early August with the formation of Hurricane Ernesto and Tropical Storm Florence.

Hurricane Ernesto is a tropical and current cyclone currently located over the Yucatán Peninsula. It formed on August 1 from a tropical wave, becoming the fifth tropical depression of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Ernesto moved through the Lesser Antilles on August 3, moving near or over Saint Lucia. It continued westward and passed south of Jamaica on August 5, before strengthening in the western Caribbean off the northeast coast of Honduras. Ernesto became a hurricane before striking Quintana Roo in extreme eastern Mexico.

NOAA currently predicts:

12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including: 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which: 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

"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."

However, NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced today that El Niño will likely develop in August or September.

"El Niño is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development. However, we don’t expect El Niño’s influence until later in the season," Bell said.

For further information see Hurricane.

Ernesto image via NOAA.

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