For the first year in awhile, forecasters predict a "normal" hurricane season for the Atlantic -- which isn't to say it will be a safe season.
The federal government predicts 9-15 named tropical storms, including 4-8 hurricanes, 1-3 of which are expected to be major hurricanes with 111 mph winds or higher. Of course, it takes only one hurricane to cause massive damage and threaten human life. Communities in upstate New York are still struggling to recover from the passing of Irene and Lee in 2011, neither of which retained hurricane strength by the time they reached their destructive ends. And 20 years ago, Hurricane 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.
The seasonal prediction, from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, is slightly more aggressive than the latest forecast from the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, which predicts 10 tropical storms, including four hurricanes and two major hurricanes. The federal forecast also encompass the prediction from Accuweather.com for 12 named tropical storms, including five hurricanes, two of which will reach major hurricane status.
The average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes.
The 2011 season included 19 named storms, including seven hurricanes, four of the major hurricanes.
The three forecasts are broadly in agreement, based on driving forces that are understood to cause hurricane activity. While the overall trend toward is toward stormier seas since 1995, three factors are expected to limit hurricane formation:
1. Strong wind shear, which should tamp down hurricane formation.
2. Cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic, where storms are often given life.
3. The potential for an El Nino in the Pacific, which tends to limit Atlantic hurricane activity.
When the 2012 tropical storms and hurricanes do come, these will be their names:
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