Hurricane forecaster calls it quits for now

Every December since 1991, Colorado State University's William Gray has offered his outlook for the next year's hurricane season.

Not this year.

Instead of releasing his outlook for 2012 this week, as promised, Gray and a colleague at the university's Department of Atmospheric Science, issued a report "discontinuing" his annual rite of anticipating major storm activity for the next year.

"Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill even though the hindcast studies on which they were based had considerable skill," he said.

Wow!  The prof says he's missed so many forecasts that it's time to stop offering what he calls "quantitative" forecasts in favor of a "more qualitative discussion of the factors which will determine next year's hurricane activity."  What really seems to have him confused is El Nino.  Sometimes it's there causing changes in the climate around the equator which can roil conditions far to the east.  Sometimes, it's not.  (The graphic at the top of the page is from NOAA's El Nino resrearch page.)

But if you're desperate for an inkling of how bad/good/severe/modest the next summer's storms may be for the Atlantic and Caribbean, Prof. Gray does say there's a "45% chance that conditions will result in "above average" activity, perhaps 12-15 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes, 3-4 of them major.

He also says there is a 30% chance the season could see 8-11 named storms and 1-2 major hurricanes.

Prof. Gray intends to take the winter season to do more study and now says, "Our first quantitative forecasts for 2012 will be issued Wednesday, April 4."

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