BALTIMORE — Despite being one of the most active on record, the 2012 hurricane season lacked power — Superstorm Sandy notwithstanding — making it a “highly unusual year,” according to one storm forecaster.
The season officially ends Friday, and some forecasters suspect a postseason cyclone could be possible, though it would be unlikely to affect land. But assuming that doesn’t happen, the 2012 season ranks third among the most active since record-keeping began in 1851 with 19 named storms.
While most pre- and even mid-season hurricane forecasts underestimated how far we would get on the storm names list, the number of major hurricanes meanwhile came nowhere near the guesses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in August predicted five to eight Atlantic hurricanes, two to three of them “major,” rated categories 3-5.
Only Hurricane Michael reached Category 3 strength, and for just six hours, peaking with 115 mph winds.
“It was a highly unusual year in that we had a lot of activity, but it tended to be weaker,” said Philip Klotzbach, a forecaster with the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University. The project will release a critique of its own predictions on Thursday, finding it called for too few named storms but too many major hurricanes.
The 2012 season is tied with 2011 and 2010 as well as 1995 and 1887 for third-most tropical storms on record. There were more only in 2005, with 28, and 1933, with 21, according to the National Hurricane Center.
There was only a single major hurricane for the first time since 1997, according to the center’s records.
Klotzbach attributed the unusual pattern to relatively dry, sinking air in the tropics. There was relatively more activity in the subtropics, particularly around the Azores, where Nadine circled for about a month.
Superstorm Sandy is somewhat in a class by itself, since it was no longer behaving as a tropical cyclone before it made landfall last month. Regardless, it stands out as the most destructive storm of the season by far.
Others to influence U.S. coastline included pre-season Tropical Storm Beryl in May, Tropical Storm Debby in June, and Hurricane Isaac in August. But remarkably, a dozen of the 19 never made landfall at all, only churning out in the Atlantic.