On Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) raised their predictions for the 2012 hurricane season, now calling for a near- or above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. The season, which started on June 1 and runs through the end of November, has already seen four named tropical storms (Alberto, Beryl, Debbie and Florence) and two hurricanes (Chris and Ernesto).
After initially calling for nine to 15 named storms, four to eight hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes, NOAA now projects
- 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
- 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
- 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)
The normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center, said in a NOAA release. “These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.”
NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced that El Niño will likely develop in August or September.
“El Niño is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development. However, we don’t expect El Niño’s influence until later in the season,” Bell said.
The raised predications can give hope to some drought-stricken areas, even those in the middle of the country. Though hurricanes wreak havoc along the coasts, they often continue their treks in a weakened state through the country, soaking areas in its path.
“A Florida-aimed hurricane would give the best chance for rainfall that might reach Iowa,” Dan Piller wrote in a Des Moines Register blog.
Many areas in the Midwest need at least 12 inches of rain to quench the drought, and hurricanes can often dump inches upon inches of much needed rain as it treks inland. All hurricanes paths differ, and though it is too early to count of these storms bringing relief to end the drought, the possibility still remains. One hurricane could land in Texas and continue north through the Plains, much like Hurricane Alex in 2010. This same hurricane could instead take a path to the northeast, much like Hurricane Ike in 2008.
In September 2008, Ike struck Galveston after churning through Turks and Caicos, Hispaniola and Cuba. Though drought conditions were minimal compared to this year, heavy showers attributed to Ike lingered for several days across numerous key agriculture states while slowly creeping to the northeast. Many areas received a minimum of 3 inches, with pockets of 5 inches stretching from Texas through the Indiana/Michigan border.