NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season

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301-713-0622 May 24, 2012

Hurricane Andrew on August 23 at 1231 UTC. Thi...

Hurricane Andrew on August 23 at 1231 UTC. This image was produced from data from NOAA-12, provided by NOAA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season

Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew underscores necessity to prepare every year

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, NOAA announced today from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5). Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.” 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.

Favoring storm development in 2012: the continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region. Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are: strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.

“Another potentially competing climate factor would be El Niño if it develops by late summer to early fall. In that case, conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months (August-October) of the season, possibly shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“NOAA’s improvement in monitoring and predicting hurricanes has been remarkable over the decades since Andrew, in large part because of our sustained commitment to research and better technology. But more work remains to unlock the secrets of hurricanes, especially in the area of rapid intensification and weakening of storms,” said Lubchenco. “We’re stepping up to meet this challenge through our Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, which has already demonstrated exciting early progress toward improving storm intensity forecasts.”

Lubchenco added that more accurate forecasts about a storm’s intensity at landfall and extending the forecast period beyond five days will help America become a more Weather-Ready Nation.

In a more immediate example of research supporting hurricane forecasting, NOAA this season is introducing enhancements to two of the computer models available to hurricane forecasters – the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) models. The HWRF model has been upgraded with a higher resolution and improved atmospheric physics. This latest version has demonstrated a 20 to 25 percent improvement in track forecasts and a 15 percent improvement in intensity forecasts relative to the previous version while also showing improvement in the representation of storm structure and size. Improvements to the GFDL model for 2012 include physics upgrades that are expected to reduce or eliminate a high bias in the model’s intensity forecasts.

The seasonal outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land. Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts are provided by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, which continuously monitors the tropics for storm development and tracking throughout the season using an array of tools including satellites, advance computer modeling, hurricane hunter aircraft, and land- and ocean-based observations sources such as radars and buoys.

Next week, May 27- June 2, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week. To help prepare residents of hurricane-prone areas, video and audio public service announcements featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA administrator are available in both English and Spanish.

“Every hurricane season we ask families, communities, and businesses to ensure they are prepared and visit http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes,” said Tim Manning, FEMA deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. “Being prepared includes developing a family emergency plan, putting an emergency kit together or updating your existing kit, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved to ensure your community is ready.”

NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin is for a near-normal hurricane season and the Central Pacific basin is expected to have a below-normal season. NOAA will issue an updated seasonal outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.

On the Web:

Hurricane Preparedness Week: http://www.hurricanes.gov/prepare

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40 thoughts on “NOAA predicts a near-normal 2012 Atlantic hurricane season

  1. If they’re not careful, our American cousins will forget what an hurricane is.

  2. Missing here is any context and perspective, ie. any reference to NOAA’s ludicrous track record since (say) Hurricane Katrina. With its “barbecue summers” and “mild, dry winters,” Britain’s egregious Met Office joins NOAA as a virtual laughing-stock, no more reliable than Railroad Bill Pachauri’s excrescent IPCC glacier-melting propaganda.

  3. there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms

    I’m assuming this is just rounded from the proper 68[.2]% (hey guys at the NOAA, you don’t need to round your standard deviation numbers: it makes your other, pathetic rounding errors look doubly stupid). I guess the 2 sigma numbers are 0-24, 0-12, & 0-4, respectively?

  4. Yes, but will climate strange cause some of them to rotate the wrong way like the one on the cover of Big Al’s book?

  5. “NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin is for a near-normal hurricane season and the Central Pacific basin is expected to have a below-normal season.”

    Given that the East/Central Pacific activity has a strong tendency to be inversely related to Atlantic activity, this is a bit surprising to me. If we expect El Nino to bring down Atlantic numbers (in the “high activity era” (postive AMO) near normal is low) should it not also bring up the East Pacific hurricanes? I am pretty sure it usually does. Then again, the East Pacific is also currently in a “low activity era” so “normal” is the new active there.

    How slowly evolving climate variations vex the “normal” so!

  6. This is the US, guys. Remember that. It doesn’t matter if the NOAA is right or wrong in their prediction, only what the perception of the season is when it’s done. If the media play it up a la the year of the shark then it’ll be the worst hurricane season on record and clearly due to global warming. And this will be true in the minds of the population whether it’s actually true or not. In the war between facts and fantasy, fantasy always wins.

  7. Why don’t they just tell us how many hurricanes there were, after the season. These predictions offer no help. Am I to buy supplies for between 9 and 15 storms?
    Their information is useless; unless Vegas bets on it.

  8. They’ve made an addendum which states: Models indicate that flipping a quarter in the year 2012 has a 50% chance of landing heads.

    bazinga!

  9. RobRoy: Given that the locations and number of landfalls is only weakly correlated with the number of storms, and all it takes is a single storm to do signigicant damage, you shouldn’t prepare any differently for 9 or 15 storms or anything inbetween. This is what the NHC has been telling us for decades.

  10. Why does settled science need to be tweaked?

    Improvements to the GFDL model for 2012 include physics upgrades that are expected to reduce or eliminate a high bias in the model’s intensity forecasts.

  11. Given NOAA’s track record of comming in way high over the last several years, I translate this as 2012 will be the weakest huricane season ever.

  12. Last Autumn we in Britain were warned to brace ourselves for a freezing winter.
    In my wisdom i prepared for a barbeque winter and was proven right.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/10/new-climate-scare-europe-may-be-facing-return-of-little-ice-age/

    Now given this NOAA prediction of a near normal hurricane season I would advise to batten everything down and prepare for the worst.

    Not because i have any skill in long range forecasting but I can toss a coin or choose to disagree when there is a binary option proposed.

  13. “Another potentially competing climate factor would be El Niño if it develops by late summer to early fall. In that case, conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months (August-October) of the season, possibly shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range,”

    So warming means fewer hurricanes? So why are we scared of a little warming, again?

  14. It looks like this year’s “B” storm is attempting to form east of the Florida Keys. If it forms and then dies before June first, and the hurricane season doesn’t begin until June first, will it count in the official season-tally?

  15. As higley sez, above, “average” is your best bet. On average, your chances of getting the outcome inside your error bars is maximized by betting the average.

    Which is kind of what average means! (Notice how I got the “means” in there, too? ;) )

  16. Jer0me says:
    May 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    So warming means fewer hurricanes? So why are we scared of a little warming, again?

    Yeah; some of us have been on and on about the lower topics-poles energy gradient during warming episodes leading to milder, calmer climate for years now. But the “hot sea surface” meme has been accepted dogma. Notwithstanding all the modern and historical evidence tying severe storms to cool surface temps.

    Vindication is sweet. Revenge will be even more so!

  17. Am I the only one who is irritated by forecasters who are in the habit of using the words “average” an “normal” as if they are synonymous and directly interchangeable?
    Following this logic, any condition that deviates from the average then becomes “abnormal”, which is of course total rubbish – conditions that are far from average can be perfectly “normal”.

  18. Meanwhile, over at weather.com, http://www.weather.com/news/tampa-gop-convention-20100524 says “Hurricane Threat Could Disrupt GOP Convention. The four-day GOP convention will be in Tampa, Fla. Aug. 27-30, smack dab in the middle of Florida’s hurricane season.” I guess that’s apodictic, but a story on the dearth of major hurricane landfalls like http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/16/hurricane-drought-days-at-an-all-time-high-katrina-karma/ would be more interesting.

    Ah, they do note “Florida heads into the official six-month storm season that begins June 1 having evaded a hurricane on its shores for an unprecedented six straight years. And the forecast for a seventh straight year without a hurricane is also encouraging.”

    And disparage that with “I want to remind Floridians that 20 years ago the same prediction was made,” Carroll said. “In August 1992, Florida was forever altered. Hurricane Andrew changed the landscape of Florida.”

    I don’t believe Andrew changed the Tampa landscape, but it may have directed a shark towards Atlanta for the Weather Channel to jump.

  19. Jer0me says: “So warming means fewer hurricanes? So why are we scared of a little warming, again?”
    Not that I think we should be scared of a little warming, but the sentence you quoted doesn’t say that. It says that natural tropical pacific warm events are associated with less Atlantic Hurricanes. One can’t extrapolate that to global changes in sea surface temperatures.

    Brian H says: “Yeah; some of us have been on and on about the lower topics-poles energy gradient during warming episodes leading to milder, calmer climate for years now. But the “hot sea surface” meme has been accepted dogma. Notwithstanding all the modern and historical evidence tying severe storms to cool surface temps.”

    extratropical storminess is driven by the Jet Stream which would move Northward/weaken in a warmer climate with reduced equator to pole temperature gradient. Tropical storms don’t work that way! Rather than the equator to pole temperature gradient being important, the vertical temperature gradients are. That being said, higher sea surface temperatures probably won’t lead to more or significantly stronger storms since the wind shear and other atmospheric factors will probably cancel that effect.

    Matt says: “Given NOAA’s track record of comming in way high over the last several years”

    2011 NOAA May Prediction:
    12-18 Named, 6-10 Hurricanes, 3-6 Major
    Actual: 19, 7, 4

    2010 NOAA May Prediction:
    14-23, 8-14, 3-7
    Actual: 19, 12, 5

    2009 NOAA May Prediction:
    9-14, 4-7, 1-3
    Actual: 9, 3, 2

    2008 NOAA May Prediction:
    12-16, 6-9, 2-5
    Actual: 16, 8, 5

    I could go on, but it’s already clear your accusation is baseless. There has been no tendency for NOAA to systematically predict too much activity.

    Seriously, people, the guys at NHC and other Hurricane people at NOAA are good people and generally excellent scientists. No need to lump them in with warming alarmists.

  20. @Paul Grainger says:
    May 25, 2012 at 1:30 am

    “Am I the only one who is irritated by forecasters who are in the habit of using the words “average” an “normal” as if they are synonymous and directly interchangeable?”

    You are not alone in that universe. Thanks for bringing up a pet peeve, Paul. E-e-e-very now and then one of our local meteorologists will tell listeners they are using “average of last 30 years” as normal. Yay!

    Normal climate to me means 1km of ice over my property or perhaps my property submerged under 20-30m of sea water; by which I mean that there is no normal climate anywhere. The global climate is a trajectory from Earth’s formation to Earth’s destruction. Earth’s climate never repeats exactly though it does produce cyclical results that are similar enough to seem like a repeat.

    Climate changes. It’s up to us to deal with it.

  21. The poor use of ‘normal’ and ‘average’ by forecasters is annoying. As are phrases like, ‘temperatures are above where they SHOULD be for the time of the year’. TV ‘forecasters’ are constantly doing this, particularly on the BBC. My children SHOULD sit sensibly at the table when eating their dinner. Use of the word SHOULD in weather forecasts SHOULD be banned!

    Sorry for the rant.

  22. timetochooseagain says: May 25, 2012 at 8:08 am “…the guys at NHC and other Hurricane people at NOAA are good people and generally excellent scientists. No need to lump them in with warming alarmists.”

    Yes there is. In the last two years the NOAA has padded the number of named storms by naming tropical depressions. And while they are better than NASA, they are still responsible for a lot of scientifically indefensible warmist garbage. They need to be purged. Like most of the government, they are a pox on our country.

  23. woodNfish says: “In the last two years the NOAA has padded the number of named storms by naming tropical depressions.”

    The cause of increasing numbers of marginal storms being named is not a malicious conspiracy to change the definition of what constitutes a Tropical Storm. It is the fact that technology has improved. We are not naming too many storms now, we named too few in the past.

    Watch the Heartland panel 3 and 4 video, the panel 4 part, Stan Goldenberg’s presentation, and tell me that there are no good scientists at NHC. I’ll wait.

    “And while they are better than NASA, they are still responsible for a lot of scientifically indefensible warmist garbage.”

    This is what comes from lumping organizations together as if they were homogeneous aggregates. NOAA “as a whole” is no better or worse on AGW than NASA “as a whole”. What I am saying is that the people who study Hurricanes at NHC and other Hurricane groups at NOAA are mostly good scientists who do great work to warn people about Hurricane risks. They most definitely are not the same as the guys at NASA GISS or NOAA NCDC. If you want to throw out the good work showing that Hurricane variations are natural, done by people at NHC, as “indefensible warmist garbage” because warmist work is done by another branch of the same parent organization, well that’s just ridiculous.

  24. Ric Werme says:
    May 25, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Meanwhile, over at weather.com, http://www.weather.com/news/tampa-gop-convention-20100524 says “Hurricane Threat Could Disrupt GOP Convention. The four-day GOP convention will be in Tampa, Fla. Aug. 27-30, smack dab in the middle of Florida’s hurricane season.”

    Reply————————
    I don’t foresee any intense tropical precipitation in Florida until the 2nd thru the 4th of September, I think they will be safe from hurricane activity.JMHO

    http://staging.aerology.com/Home/Index?location=Usa&mapType=Prcp&date=9/3/2012

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