Could the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season Ramp Up Soon?

Tracks of tropical storms (turquoise) and hurricanes (light yellow) during the 2012 season as of August 11, 2012. Blue dots represent tropical depression stages of the named storms.

After two named storms in both May and June, many thought this year’s 2012 Atlantic hurricane season would be busy and active.  (Of course, many thought this year’s tornado count would shatter records after the fast start in the first few months and that hasn’t come close to panning out.)  There were no named storms in July.  Ernesto formed on August 1 and had the longest life of any storm this year, even if it only reached hurricane status for a short time before landing on the Yucatan peninsula.  Tropical Storm Florence was named on August 4 and dissipated two days later over the central Atlantic.  Tropical depression number seven never got a name and what some thought could become tropical depression eight has yet to organize.

Despite the lack of activity over the last two months, and the development of an El Niño in the Pacific, NOAA raised its’ prediction for Atlantic named storms during the season.  (For the record, the season begins on June 1 and ends November 30, but the May storms still count toward the season total.)  NOAA now predicts 12-17 named storms (originally predicted 9-15), 5-8 hurricanes (orig 4-8), and 2-3 major (category three or greater) hurricanes (orig 1-3).  These new predictions take into account the six named storms and two hurricanes that already occurred this season.  In order for NOAA’s prediction to be accurate, they need at least six more named storms, two more hurricanes and two major hurricanes.  Considering the peak date of hurricane season is September 10, this doesn’t seem to be a stretch.  The only possible problem is finding two major hurricanes considering a total of four advisories have identified a hurricane in the Atlantic this season, and they have yet to classify a hurricane as stronger than category one.

The other mitigating factor is the generation of an El Niño in the Pacific.  It’s widely known and accepted that El Niño leads to increased vertical wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, which prevents the organization and development of tropical cyclones.  NOAA’s believes the El Niño is coming on too late to really dampen tropical cyclone development over the next couple months.  This, combined with warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Atlantic basin, should lead to increased activity in the Atlantic soon – at least according to NOAA.

It should be noted that NOAA isn’t alone in this line of thinking.  Former Accuweather meteorologist, Joe Bastardi, who specializes in tropical and long-range forecasting, believes we’ll see increased activity soon as well as an increased threat to the US mainland:

Bastardi now works for WeatherBell Analytics and his forecasts/discussions are behind a subscription-based service.  Thus, I can’t say for sure what his reasoning is behind this forecast.  It will be interesting to follow this specific forecast during the 2-week stretch.  For the record, his former employer also believes the worst is yet to come in the Atlantic.

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