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Hurricane Season: A Look Back at 2011and a Look Ahead to 2012
Consensus 2012 Forecast 2011
Actual / Forecast
Average Actual (1995-2011)
Named Storms
19 / 17
7 / 9
Major Hurricanes
(Category 3, 4 or 5)
4 / 5

2011 - An Active Season but Quiet for the Gulf of Mexico

  The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season produced 19 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes, and tied 2010, 1995, and 1887 for the third highest number of tropical storms. This actual activity was essentially right on target with the Colorado State University's 2011 pre-season forecasts of: 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes.

While 2011 produced an above average number of named storms with a near normal number of major hurricanes, the upper Gulf of Mexico area saw virtually no activity during the entire season except for a brief encounter with Lee, a minimal tropical storm which came into Louisiana in early September.

2011's first hurricane, Irene, was a powerful Category 3 hurricane and was the only storm to make landfall in the U.S.

Irene made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1, causing significant damage and record flooding to the Northeast United States.

Pre-Season Forecast for 2012 Activity

Colorado State University and NOAA are two of the more reliable pre-season predictors of possible tropical activity.

The consensus of those two sources believe that the 2012 tropical season will be about or a bit below average, with much lower activity than 2011. (see table at top of page)

CSU's Philip Klotzbach and William Gray noted in their extended outlook published in April, 2012:

"We anticipate that the 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have reduced activity compared with the 1981-2010 climatology.

The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El NiƱo event this summer and fall are relatively high. We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.

The probabilities for at least one major hurricane (category 3-5) landfall is estimated to be:

  • 24% for the U.S. East Coast including Peninsula Florida (average for the last century is 31%)

  • 24% for the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30%)

However, 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."

A more extensive analysis of the 2012 hurricane season outlook can be reviewed at Jeff Masters Blog.

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