Did you enjoy the winter? Went quick, didn't it? It seems like just 15 minutes ago, we were all lounging in the cool Houston winter while our northern neighbors were breaking out the snow plows. We laughed and laughed. Now, we've started to reach that wonderful time when even your beads of sweat have beads of sweat on them and in two magical months, it will be hurricane season again.
But fear not, because hurricane forecasters are on the job. Not dissimilar to Punxsutawney Phil, hurricane prognosticators emerge from their
holes labs around this time every year to let us know if their fancy computers saw their shadows. The good news is that those making predictions are calling for a quieter than normal hurricane season in 2012. The bad news: Early season predictions like this are often as reliable as the groundhog.
The two most substantial forecast reports come from the venerable Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach and from noted hurricane expert Joe Bastardi. Both are calling for around ten named storms and around five hurricanes (Bastardi is slightly more aggressive than Gray/Klotzbach), a down year in terms of yearly averages and certainly lower than the 19 we had last year.
The reason both are calling for lowered numbers is that the Atlantic Ocean is showing very cool sea surface temperatures that are expected to remain lower than normal throughout the season, aided at least in part by a predicted weak El Niño, which tends to increase wind shear and decrease surface temperatures across the Atlantic, both factors hindering storm development.
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That doesn't necessarily mean we won't see tropical activity. The temperatures of water in the Gulf are already above normal and will increase throughout the season, creating a higher risk of storm development right on our doorstep. In fact, Hurricane Alicia, which hit Galveston in 1983, happened during a similar down year.
But, as a general rule, fewer storms is always a good thing, though a decent tropical depression or storm in our area to keep the drought from returning wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either.