Here is a summary of the 2012 Northern Atlantic Hurricane Season, plus hurricane facts and information.
For hurricane forecasting, our reference is the experts at Colorado State University. For 2012:
"The 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane season had above-average tropical cyclone activity, more than what was predicted in our seasonal forecasts. The likely reason for this was due to the warmer tropical Atlantic and lack of development of El Niño. Despite these TC-enhancing conditions in the tropical Atlantic, the MDR was relatively quiet, likely due to the strong dry anomalies and subsidence that were present over the MDR during the months of July and September. A weakness in the subtropical ridge located near the East Coast helped induce the recurvature of several systems that might otherwise have threatened the U.S. coastline. We have now gone seven years since the last major hurricane made U.S. landfall (Wilma – October 2005)."
The 2012 hurricane season was "notable for having a very large number of weak, high latitude tropical cyclones but only one major hurricane. The activity that occurred in 2012 was anomalously concentrated in the northeast subtropical Atlantic. Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Cape May, NJ. It was a massive cyclone with tropical storm-force winds extending nearly 500 miles from the center. While Superstorm Sandy caused massive devastation along parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coast, its destruction was viewed to be within the realm of natural variability."
2012 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Summary
The hurricane season runs June 1 through November 30; the historical average (in parenthesis) is based on 1981–2010 records.
Forecast Parameter (and 1981–2010 Average)
Colorado State University
|Named tropical storms (12.0)||19|
|Named tropical storm days (60.1)||99.50|
|Hurricane days (21.3)||26|
|Major hurricanes (2.0)||1|
|Major hurricane days (3.9)||0.25|
|Net tropical cyclone activity (103%)||121|
Note: Forecasts cover the Atlantic Basin—the area encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Get up-to-the-moment hurricane news at the NOAA National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane Facts, Questions, and Information
Q. How are Hurricane Names Chosen?
A. Most storm names are taken from a permanent list that rotates every 6 years. More than 60 names have been retired since 1950 because they resulted in significant property damage or deaths. A name can be retired at the request of a country affected by the storm. It should be noted that not all hurricanes were named, including some of the most deadly or damaging storms known to man.
Q. Just what is a hurricane?
A. A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of at least 74 mph in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane's winds blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center of extremely low pressure known as the eye of the storm. Around the rim of the eye, winds may gust to more than 200 mph. The eye of a storm is usually 20 to 30 miles wide and may extend over 400 miles. The entire storm can be up to 340 miles in diameter, dominating the ocean surface and lower atmosphere for thousands of square miles.
The dangers of a storm include torrential rains, high winds, and storm surges. A hurricane can last for 2 weeks or more over open water and can follow a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, coastal areas, and barrier islands. All Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Although rarely struck by hurricanes, parts of the Southwest and Pacific Coast suffer heavy rains and floods each year from the remnants of hurricanes spawned off Mexico. Islands such as Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico also are subject to hurricanes.
Q. Is a hurricane the same as a cyclone?
A. A hurricane is actually one of three kinds of tropical storms, or cyclones, that circulate over tropical waters. The circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:
An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons. Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones.
Hurricanes are further classified by rank according to how strong their winds are.
Q. How are hurricanes classified?
A. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane's present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf in the landfall region. Wind speeds are measured using a 1-minute average.
|Saffir-Simpson||Wind (mph)||Hurricane Example|
|Category One||74 - 95||Allison (1995), Danny (1997)|
|Category Two||96 - 110||Bonnie (1998), George (1998), Gustav (2002)|
|Category Three||111 - 130||Roxane (1995), Fran (1996), Rita (2005)|
|Category Four||131 - 155||Opal (1995), Iniki (1992), Charley (2004), Katrina (2005)|
|Category Five||156 +||Andrew (1992)|
Q. What causes a hurricane to happen?
A. A tropical ocean and its atmosphere create the right conditions for a hurricane. Hurricanes draw their energy from the warm surface waters of the tropics (usually above 27°C, or about 81°F) and the latent heat of condensation. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerlies, as well as by their own ferocious energy. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rain and floods. When hurricanes move over cold water or over large landmasses, they can die out quickly because they lose the power of the heat and condensation.
Q. How do we know a hurricane is coming?
Now, thanks to satellite technology, no hurricane goes unnoticed. See our article on "Predicting Hurricanes: The Eyes Have It" to learn more.
Q. What do the hurricane warnings mean?
A. A watch means that hurricane-force winds are possible within 48 hours. A warning means that hurricane-force winds are likely within 36 hours.
Q. What caused Hurricane Katrina?
A. Hurricane Katrina (2005) was one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever strike the country and also the single most costly hurricane. The damage and loss of life inflicted by this powerful hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi were devastating, with effects stretching into Florida panhandle, Georgia, and Alabama.
Katrina was a complex storm, but to put it simply: Katrina started with the interaction of a tropical wave and the remnants of a weakening storm known as Tropical Depression Ten; the pressure disturbance become organized over the central Bahamas on August 23. It rapidly strengthened into a tropical storm and then a hurricane by the next day. Katrina was lifted towards Florida by upper-level steering winds and became a category 1 hurricane a few hours before landfall in southern Florida on the 25th. Katrina was on shore for about 7 hours and then moved into the Gulf of Mexico, reaching category 5 intensity on August 28. Katrina weakened to a strong category 3 or category 4 hurricane before making landfall on the northern Gulf coast.