Researchers: 2012 hurricane season should be less active

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The 2012 hurricane season is shaping up to be less nerve rattling than average, hurricane researchers at Colorado State University have predicted.

In a sneak peek at the university's Tropical Meteorology Project's hurricane season forecast, coming Wednesday, researchers said atmospheric and ocean conditions tell them that the upcoming season will be less active than an average season between 1981 and 2010.

Strong westerly winds across the Atlantic have pushed cooler waters where hurricanes form, and the tropical Pacific is on a warming trend, called El Nino, that tends to create wind shear that makes it hard for hurricanes to rev up, researchers said.

Wednesday's report will have Colorado State University's predictions for numbers of named storms and how many of them will become hurricanes and major hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Southwest Florida should not drop its guard, Collier County Emergency Management Director Dan Summers said.

"It only takes one storm to really rock your world," Summers said.

For example, Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992, came during an inactive hurricane season.

Florida had a quiet hurricane season in 2011 despite the fact that the storms were flying across the Atlantic at a pretty rapid rate with 18 named storms, of which seven were hurricanes. Four of those were major hurricanes.

Busy or not, this year's hurricane season comes with a slightly revised Saffir-Simpson scale that forecasters use to categorize storm strength.

The upper and lower ranges of Category 3, 4 and 5 storms, the strongest on the scale, have been tweaked so the categories are consistent when converted between knots and miles per hour.

For example, a storm will hit Category 4 territory when its winds reach 130 mph instead of 131 mph; a Category 5 storm will require 157 mph winds instead of 156.

"It's a little mathematical thing," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.

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