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Hurricane season forecast to be slightly slower

Climatologists say El Niño might emerge over the summer, further depressing the formation of serious storms.

April 28, 2012|By Ken Kaye, Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Forecasting teams are calling for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season to be slower than normal, although not by much.

AccuWeather.com predicts 12 named storms, including five hurricanes, two with sustained winds greater than 110 mph.

Weather Services International, or WSI, a part of the Weather Channel, projects 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of those intense.

Both forecasts would translate to a slightly slower than normal season: On average, there are 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, three of them major.

In early April, Phil Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University predicted 10 named storms, including four hurricanes, two of those major. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its seasonal outlook May 24.

Climatologists expect Atlantic sea surface temperatures to be cooler than over the last several years. They also say El Niño, the atmospheric pattern that suppresses storm formation, might emerge over the summer.

"There is still uncertainty regarding the development of El Niño," said Todd Crawford, WSI chief meteorologist. "If the chances of El Niño development increase, our forecast numbers will likely go down even further in future updates."

If the predictions are on target, 2012 would be considerably slower than the previous two years. 2010 and 2011 saw 19 named storms each, tying them with 1995 and 1887 as the third-busiest seasons on record.

While not specifying where storms might hit this year, Paul Pastelok, AccuWeather's lead long-range forecaster, said atmospheric conditions indicated that storms might rise up in the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. And he said "another big storm is possible for the East Coast" in the wake of Irene, which struck the U.S. last August.

Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

kkaye@tribune.com

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