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Forecasters predict fewer hurricanes this year

By Ric Ward, CNN
updated 6:05 AM EDT, Thu April 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Top hurricane experts anticipate only two major hurricanes in 2012
  • They expect 10 named storms instead of 12, the annual average
  • William Gray has been studying storms for more than 40 years

(CNN) -- Folks in hurricane-prone areas of the United States and Caribbean may breathe a sigh of relief this year. Forecasters at Colorado State University say a less-active hurricane season is in store.

Meteorologists Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray say there is "a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean."

They forecast 10 named storms in the Atlantic Basin, of which only four will become hurricanes and two will become major hurricanes. A major hurricane is a category 3, 4 or 5 storm.

That compares to an average of 12 named storms, 6.5 hurricanes and three major hurricanes a year for the period of 1981-2010.

The probability of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the United States is 42%, according to the forecasters. The average for the last century is 52%.

The forecasters base their prediction on the cooling of the Atlantic Ocean over the past several months and the increased chances of an El Nino, or warming of Pacific waters, over this year's hurricane season.

But along with the bright forecast comes a dire warning: "Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted."

In 2011, Klotzbach and Gray predicted 16 named storms and five major hurricanes. There were actually 19 named storms and three major hurricanes.

Gray runs Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State and has worked in the observational and theoretical aspects of tropical meteorological research for more than 40 years.

Klotzbach has worked with Gray on the seasonal hurricane forecasts since 2000.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1.

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