Despite a quiet July in the Atlantic, the AccuWeather.com Long-Range Forecasting team still expects the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season to be near normal in terms of the number of named storms. The forecast calls for a total of 12 tropical storms, five named hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
With the number of named tropical storms and hurricanes so far this season factored in, there should be eight additional tropical storms, four of which will become hurricanes, through the rest of the hurricane season. Of those four hurricanes, two could strengthen into major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher.
Astronaut Ron Garan snapped this photo of Hurricane Irene from aboard the International Space Station on Aug. 22, 2011. NOAA averages are based on data from 1981-2010. This was the initial AccuWeather 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast graphic released on April 26, 2012.
The tropics will become more active from the middle of August through the middle of September with an uptick in the number of named storms. This is the normal peak time of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The U.S. may be impacted by two more named tropical systems, according to AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. The central Gulf Coast to the southern Virginia coast is most likely to get hit. Once again, Florida could be susceptible.
Flooding from Tropical Storm Debby in St. Petersburg, Fla. Photo was tweeted by Renee Greco.
The chances are lower for the western Gulf coast and northern Atlantic coast to endure a direct landfall of a named tropical system, but they are not immune. Even if a storm does not make landfall in these areas, there can still be impact of flooding rainfall far from where storms move inland.
A gradual fading of the season will occur during October, depending on how fast and strong El Niño comes on. El Niño is a phenomenon characterized by above-normal water temperatures across the central and equatorial Pacific. Water temperatures are warming in the Pacific with the pattern trending toward a weak El Niño.
When an El Niño pattern develops, it forces strong westerly winds high in the atmosphere to shift farther south across the Atlantic. More frequent episodes of high wind shear inhibit tropical development by preventing vertical building of clouds and a well-defined center.