After an early start to the Atlantic hurricane season, we currently have six named storms in the rear view mirror. However, according to the National Hurricane Center, the second half of the season may get rather busy.
To be honest, that is not too much of a reach given that the peak of hurricane season has yet to come. However, given that El Nino is expected to develop during the peak does make this a bit more impressive.
That's because El Nino causes vertical wind shear to increase over the Atlantic. Hurricanes and wind shear do not get along and in most cases would suppress the development of anything tropical because it cannot build vertically without being torn apart, so to speak, by the wind shear.
“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, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center, said.
Warmer waters act as fuel to feed these tropical systems. According to Bell, “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.”
In May, the National Hurricane Center issued their initial outlook for the 2012 hurricane season calling for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. A normal Atlantic hurricane season, which is based on a 30-year average, produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
The updated forecast still calls for a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season however, it increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent while decreasing the chance of a below normal season to 15 percent from May’s forecast outlook.
The updated forecast does include the six named storms so far this season to date. The new forecast calls for 12-17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher) including 5-8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which 2-3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3 or greater with minimum max winds of 111 mph).