Experts say hurricane season will be near average

7:25 AM, May 3, 2012   |    comments
Hurricane Rina on Wednesday, Oct. 26 2011.
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(USA TODAY) - The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins soon, and the forecasts are coming out fast and furious.

Two of the biggest private weather forecasting companies, AccuWeather and the Weather Channel, are both predicting a near or slightly below-average season.

AccuWeather's forecast, released today, predicts that 12 named tropical storms will form, of which 5 will be hurricanes; the Weather Channel says there will be 11 tropical storms, of which 6 are hurricanes.

A typical season, based on the years 1981-2010, has 12 tropical storms, of which six are hurricanes.

"Home-grown" storms in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, near the U.S. coast, are a possibility this year, AccuWeather reports: "Fronts coming down during June and July could cause energy to break off and develop tropically," Paul Pastelok, lead long-range forecaster, said.

"Another big storm is possible for the East Coast with heavy, flooding rain," Pastelok added.

The Weather Channel agrees that the season will be quieter than last year, when 19 tropical storms formed:

"After very active tropical seasons in 2010 and 2011, we expect fewer storms to develop this hurricane season," said meteorologist Todd Crawford of Weather Services International, a Weather Channel company, which released its forecast on Wednesday.

"The combination of much cooler North Atlantic ocean temperatures and a trend towards El Nino conditions suggest a notable reduction in activity," Crawford added.

Last month, the meteorologists at Colorado State University, who began seasonal hurricane forecasting in the 1980s, also said that the season would be quieter than normal. They said that 10 tropical storms would form, of which four would be hurricanes.

The federal government's 2012 hurricane forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be released May 24.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30.

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY