Somewhat cooler tropical seas and the prospect of strong shear winds suggest that the Atlantic might be a little quieter for hurricanes this summer, federal forecasters say.
Meanwhile, a second tropical cyclone of the young season might reach the Lowcountry over Memorial Day weekend.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers predict a 70 percent chance of a “normal” season of about a dozen storms, half becoming hurricanes and half of those powerfully destructive hurricanes.
Tropical sea temperatures are closer to normal than recent, busy hurricane years; higher temperatures are considered a factor in developing the storms.
The 2012 prediction released Thursday was welcome news for Lowcountry residents, already staring down a second tropical cyclone before the June-November season officially begins.
Tropical Storm Alberto threatened the region last weekend.
A second storm, strengthening in the Florida Keys Thursday, was forecast by models potentially to become a tropical cyclone and come up the Southeast coast.
NOAA computer modeling suggested a 40 percent chance of the storm becoming a tropical system, said meteorologist Blair Holloway of the National Weather Service, Charleston.
The various models bring some type of storm into the Lowcountry sometime over the holiday weekend, he said.
As of Thursday, local weather forecasts for the holiday weren’t factoring that in, he said, but “we’re certainly keeping our eye on it.”
The seasonal prediction “puts me more at ease, but I don’t think science knows everything about what Mother Nature has in store,” said Michele Amato, of Folly Beach. “You know, a minor tropical depression is still devastating out here at Folly.”
The NOAA seasonal prediction was similar to earlier forecasts, such as those by the Tropical Meteorology Project founded by hurricane guru Bill Gray and by North Carolina State University researchers.
Predictions by those two groups put the risk of a major hurricane making an East Coast landfall at 24 percent and 12 percent, respectively. NOAA does not release landfall predictions.
The NOAA forecast also noted that if an emerging El Nino develops during the season, that too could inhibit storms from forming. Winds from El Nino, or cold Pacific waters, tend to impede hurricanes in the Atlantic.
La Nina’s warm water winds do not. The water temperatures cycle and La Nina has waned.
“Regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco in a news release. This year is the 20th anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Andrew, she said, which occurred in a relatively calm year for the storms.
Andrew slammed into south Florida in 1992, killing 23 people directly and causing an estimated $26 billion in damage. Only six named storms formed that season, according to the NOAA release.