Hurricane Predictions for 2012
The 2012 Hurricane Season officially begins on June 1, so it’s time to examine the predictions of the experts. More importantly, it’s also time to review how you and your family can be prepared if those winds and waves slam into the Texas coast.
Two important weather factors play a part in hurricane formation. One is that the La Niña (cool ocean water) weather pattern in the western Pacific was declared dissipated by meteorologists in the last week of April. These La Niña winds produced droughts in South America and Texas while dumping blizzards in the Pacific Northwest. Though the weather may now enter into a neutral period, some scientists are not ruling out a direct swing into an El Niño (warm ocean water) pattern later this summer or in early fall. An El Niño weather pattern commonly causes warmer air to remain in the northern hemisphere, which touches off increased rain and flooding in the southern tier of states. They also tend to create the wind shears that inhibit tropical storm formation in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
Of course, this past winter was unusually warm, in spite of the presence of a weak La Niña. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
“The 12-month period of May 2011-April 2012 has a nationally-averaged temperature 2.8°F above the 1901-2000 long-term average, while the January-April 2012 months were 45.4°F, 5.4°F above the long-term average.”
This also means the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean Sea warmed up, too. The water temperature of the Gulf of Mexico was recorded at 2.5°F above average during March 2012, the warmest ever recorded since 1850. While it appears that all this warm ocean water looks like it won’t cool off very fast anytime soon, anomalous cooling off the west coast of Africa and a cold atmospheric pressure phenomenon call the “North Atlantic Oscillation” (NAO) might cancel that out that warmth.
In the meantime, even though tropical storms thrive over plenty of warm ocean water, the hurricane predictions for 2012 are within the normal-ish range, and by “ish,” I mean that the numbers lean toward the higher end of average number of storms.
There are three sources for hurricane predictions this year:
Colorado State University (CSU), the Weather Channel’s Weather Services International (WSI), and the University College London’s Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) consortium. All three released updates in April which decreased the number of storms.
CSU predicts 10 named tropical storms: 4 of which will become hurricanes, and 2 of those will be major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (median is 2.0). They place the probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the United States at 80 percent over the length of the season.
WSI forecasts 12 tropical storms: 7 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 of those will become major hurricanes.
TSR predicts 12.5 tropical storms: 5.6 of which will become hurricanes, and 2.6 of those will become intense hurricanes.
Overall, it says there are almost equal chances for the season to be above average, near-normal, and below average for storm activity. The NOAA will be releasing its forecast towards the end of the this month. Last year, the 2011 season produced 19 tropical storms, 7 of which became hurricanes, and 4 of those became major hurricanes. Both NOAA and CSU predicted a slightly above-normal season, and their numbers were within range.
You and your family can stay informed through the Bounce Energy Hurricane Prep Center for the latest hurricane information. Check out the Bounce Energy Hurricane Tracking Chart for Emergency contact numbers for your local utility company. There’s also emergency/routine numbers for your local authorities. Get resources and tips for creating your family’s disaster plan, what to do if you decide to evacuate, how to secure your home, caring for your pets, and other information what to do before, during, and after the storm.