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Cloudy with a near-normal chance of hurricanes this season

Back in May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted the 2012 hurricane season would feature nine to 15 named storms, with four to eight of them becoming hurricanes. One to three of those hurricanes, NOAA said, will become "major" hurricanes, marked by winds of 111 mph at the very least. Overall, the agency said there was a 70 percent chance the season would be "near normal," as forecast.

Native Floridians will not be surprised to hear that the May prediction was a revised forecast from the month before, when NOAA said we would have below average hurricane activity between June 1 and November 30. Nor will they be surprised to hear that NOAA revised the forecast again on Aug. 10.

The most recent prediction is for 12 to 17 named storms, 5 to 8 hurricanes, and 2 or 3 major hurricanes. NOAA says these numbers reflect a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 15 percent chance of a below-normal season. It boils down to there being a greater chance of above-normal activity than there was in May, but, overall, it's an even bet that it'll be a near-normal six months.

If hardly a word of that makes sense, the agency added an explanatory note: El Niño may be on the way. Generally, El Niño reduces the chances that tropical storms will develop, and that would mean that there would be a better chance of a below-normal season. However, the agency believes that the weather phenomenon will develop -- if it develops at all -- later in the season, by which time we will have had a longer period of time with a higher chance of an above-normal season.

If any of this makes sense, let us know. The rest of us in Florida, along the Gulf and on up the East Coast (remember Hurricane Irene last year) will be checking to make sure our hurricane insurance policies are up to date.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Increased Chance of Above-Normal Atlantic Hurricane Season Despite El Niño," Aug. 10, 2012

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