Hurricane season expected to be 'below average' this year - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Hurricane season expected to be 'below average' this year

ORLANDO, FL (WBTV) - The 2012 hurricane season doesn't kick off for another two months, but if you believe Colorado State University forecasters Dr. William Gray and Phil Klotzbach, this season won't be one for the record books.

Speaking at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, FL this week, Klotbach presented research that suggested key meteorological parameters just weren't ling up for a big season. 

"With the onset of El Nino, coupled with cooler water now in the tropical Atlantic and higher atmospheric pressure in the formation zone as well, the signals are suggesting a normal to perhaps even below normal 2012 hurricane season," said Klotzbach.

El Nino, or cooling water off the coast of Peru, is a major driver for weather across both North and South America. 

When cooler water gets established in the eastern Pacific Ocean, strong winds usually blow from west to east across the hurricane formation zone, creating shear aloft which tends to blow the tops off of thunderstorms. 

That's a hostile environment for storm development and under those circumstances, often times the seasonal total of tropical storms and hurricanes is lower than normal.

In an average hurricane season, there 10 to 12 named storms, six to seven hurricanes, two or three of them achieving major status with winds greater than 110 mph. 

These are the storms responsible for 80% of the damage associated with tropical systems.

Gray and Klotbach are in the final stages of gathering last minute bits of information and will release their specific forecast to the public on April 4.  The National Weather Service will also release a seasonal forecast (in range form) in early to mid May.

Gray, who has been making long-range tropical predictions for near 30 years, cautions that even if it is a less active year, everyone in vulnerable areas such as along the coast and in the Southeast should be prepared before the start of the season June 1. 

"It only takes one storm to make trouble.  If we have a year like 1992, when only one hurricane struck the US, if it hits your neighborhood, it's a busy year," Gray said. "Ask the people of South Florida and Louisiana, it may have been quiet that year everywhere else, but if sure wasn't for those folks."

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