Forecasters at Colorado State University on Friday slightly raised their hurricane forecast for the 2012 Atlantic storm season, predicting to see 14 named storms, six of them hurricanes.
The previous forecast by the widely followed team of researchers was 13 named storms and five hurricanes. Two of the six hurricanes predicted are forecast to become “major,” with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. Nevertheless, the remainder of the hurricane season will still be slightly less active than usual, with a 48% chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline.
Phil Klotzbach and William Gray, the forecasters, said in a press release that they increased the forecast because of tropical Atlantic conditions and the uncertainty of the El Nino weather phenomenon.
May and June saw four named storms, including one hurricane. On Friday, the National Hurricane Center was tracking Tropical Storm Ernesto, that formed north of Trinidad and Venezuela and was bound westward; current forecasts put it between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula at 2 a.m. Wednesday. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Dominca, St. Lucia, Martinque and Guadeloupe.
The Atlantic storm season lasts from June 1 to November 30.
The number of expected storms is widely followed by energy companies in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, as tempests result in production disruptions and evacuations. The Gulf contributes to more than 25% of U.S. oil production, and in times of high crude prices, outages can move markets. This is also the first year that drilling activity and production in the Gulf is close to normal levels after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In its June outlook, the Energy Information Administration said it expects 4.5 million barrels of crude oil and 9.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas production in the federal waters of the U.S Gulf of Mexico to be shut down during the storm season.