UPDATE: NOAA: 2012 Atlantic hurricane season forecast near normal; up to 15 named storms
With the start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season less than six weeks away, overall forecasts so far are for the season to be normal to slightly below.
AccuWeather.com, the online weather firm, predicts 12 named storms, including five hurricanes.
Weather Services International (WSI), a part of The Weather Channel, projects 11 named storms, including six hurricanes.
Research meteorologists at Colorado State University (CSU) are only forecasting 10 named storms with four reaching hurricane intensity.
All three forecasts only see two hurricanes becoming major with winds in excess of 110 mph.
A normal season, based on the years from 1981 to 2010, have seen an average of 12 named storms with six becoming hurricanes.
The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season produced 19 named storms and a tropical depression. Seven went on to become hurricanes with four becoming major.
The reasoning for the calmer or less active season ahead is the possible development of El Nino.
Todd Crawford of WSI,
The combination of much cooler North Atlantic ocean temperatures and a trend towards El Nino conditions suggest a notable reduction in activity.
Phil Klotzbach of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project,
We have witnessed cooling of the tropical Atlantic during this past winter, and there is a fairly high likelihood that an El Nino event will develop this summer. Typically, El Nino is associated with stronger vertical shear across the tropical Atlantic, creating conditions less conducive for storm formation.
The National Hurricane Center does not release its forecast until May 24th.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30.