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Hurricane Heads-up for 2012

(Image credit: NASA)

Hurricanes might take it easy on the coasts of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico this year, but experts warn against letting your guard down.

The annual hurricane heads-up from Colorado State University forecasts 10 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“However, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” wrote atmospheric scientists Philip Klotzbach and William Gray in the hurricane forecast.

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The Weather Channel’s senior meteorologist Stu Ostro noted a historical example of a slow but deadly hurricane season.

“In 1983 there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia, a Category 3 which hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there as Andrew did in South Florida [in 1992],” Ostro said.

The 2012 hurricane season may bring few storms for several reasons.

“The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El Niño event this summer and fall are relatively high,” according to the Colorado State report.

But beware -- nature has a way of defying forecasts.

NEWS: Outlook Stormy for Hurricane Forecasters

“In 2010, water in the tropical Atlantic was of record warmth for spring, and then zero hurricanes hit the U.S. that year,” Ostro said. “In 2004, El Niño developed during the heart of the hurricane season, and six hurricanes hit the U.S. including the barrage of Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.”

“Whether El Niño (or La Niña) is present is not the only factor that determines the outcome,” Ostro said.

This story was provided by Discovery News.

Tim Wall