New forecasts issued by Dr. William Gray and his team from Colorado State University suggest a less active season for tropical storms and hurricanes this year. Dr. Gray has been predicting the number of storms expected during the season for the last few decades with a good track record. He expects the season to be less active for several reasons. Probably the most important is the development of a weak El Nino. El Nino, a warm current of water in the equatorial Pacific, tends to inhibit tropical development in the Atlantic by increasing the amount of wind shear across the Atlantic Ocean. Another important reason is that ocean temperatures in the Atlantic are expected to be slightly below normal during the period of late summer and fall when tropical development is more likely.
Dr. Gray expects the Atlantic hurricane season will have less activity than the median 1981-2010 season. His team estimates that 2012 will have about 10 named storms (median is 12.0), 4 hurricanes (median is about 6) and 2 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (median is 2.0). The probability of a United States major hurricane landfall is about 80 percent of the long-period average.
Ultimately, the key to the forecast is where the storms develop. We could still see a major storm in our area should one of the storms develops near our coast. I'll continue to update the tropical season as we get closer to the middle of summer.