A couple of early outlooks for the 2012 Atlantic Basin hurricane season have been issued, one by the Colorado State University (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project, and the other by Weather Services International (WSI). Both indicate a near-average season relative to the long-term (since 1966) mean of 11 named storms and hurricanes, but a somewhat quieter season when measured against the shorter term (since 1995) average of 15.

CSU expects 10 named tropical cyclones, while WSI predicts 12. So, if you live or vacation along the East or Gulf Coast, what’s it mean to you? Well, not much, as I explained last year.

Consider that over the last three seasons, 46 named storms and hurricanes have roiled the oceans off our shores, yet only one, Irene last year, raised much of a fuss on the mainland. And even Irene, by the time she slogged ashore, was more akin to a high-end tropical storm than a classic hurricane.

So, does that suggest with even fewer cyclones expected to rattle their sabers this year we can relax a bit? Of course not. As oft repeated, it takes only one.

Hurricane Andrew, the last category 5 monster to hammer the country, exploded during a season (1992) that featured only six named cyclones. The most violent hurricane on record in the U.S., the Florida Keys beast of 1935, also swept in during a season that managed only a half-dozen storms and hurricanes.

Hurricane Hugo, the Cat 4 that stormed ashore in South Carolina in 1989 (and was the inspiration behind Eyewall), erupted during a season whose numbers were smack on the long-term average of 11.

So, to hammer the point home, a serious threat looms every year for those of us who inhabit or visit East and Gulf Coast beaches. That’s regardless of whether the Atlantic Basin is expected to boil and bubble like a witch’s cauldron, or be as calm and bucolic as a summer day in Mayberry R.F.D.

Quiet, when considering hurricane activity, is only a mathematical notion.

-April 6, 2012-

IMAGE: GOES-7 visible image of Hurricane Hugo, Sep 21, 1989 (Univ. of Wisconsin)

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