AccuWeather’s 2012 hurricane season forecast compared to 2011 numbers and 30-year average (

AccuWeather, in its outlook, calls for 12 named storms, 5 hurricanes and two major (category 3 or higher) hurricanes. Weather Services International (WSI), owned by the Weather Channel, foresees similar numbers: 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The 1981-2010 30-year hurricane season (June 1 to November 30) average is 12.1 named storms, 6.4 hurricanes, and 2.7 major hurricanes.

Both of these outlooks are very comparable to two other outlooks released earlier this month:

* Colorado State, which forecast 10 named storms, 4 hurricanes and two major hurricanes

* WeatherBell, which forecast 9-12 named storms, 4-6 hurricanes, and 2-3 major hurricanes

Most of the outlooks issued thus far have pointed to cooler Atlantic ocean waters and a trend towards El Nino conditions, often hostile to hurricane development, as rationale for the expected downtick in activity compared to the last two years, each of which had 19 named storms.

“A change to El Nino forces the westerlies to migrate farther south, causing increased [wind] shear that will diminish or perhaps shut down further development beyond September,” Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

While calling for far fewer storms than last two years, AccuWeather sees the potential for development close to the Eastern seaboard.

“Fronts coming down during June and July could cause energy to break off and develop tropically,” Paul Pastelok, lead long-range forecaster, said.

“Another big storm is possible for the East Coast with heavy, flooding rain,” Pastelok added. “With a ridge [of high pressure] over the Rockies and a trough [of low pressure] over the Great Lakes and Appalachians, the East Coast will be open for a hit [this summer]. Of course, this depends on where the storms form.”

Pastelok’s ideas are similar to WeatherBell’s Joe Bastardi.

“I don’t anticipate many long tracked storms originating off the African coast. Storms are more likely to form close to the US coast, something I like to call home brew,” Bastardi said.

But WSI’s forecast indicates a somewhat reduced risk for the East Coast.

“For 2012, our landfall model depicts slightly below-normal probabilities of landfall from Florida and up the East Coast, with slightly above-normal probabilities in the Gulf,” said WSI chief meteorologist Todd Crawford.

The truth is there is limited skill in April predictions for the number of storms and little to no skill in pre-season determinations about where storms will hit.

So a key message that repeatedly emerges in many outlooks is that it takes just one storm to have a profound impact so get ready.

“People should take preliminary precautions and make preparations for hurricane season. Get a hurricane plan together and get hurricane supplies in order, such as materials to mitigate property damage. Make a family plan for evacuation, including what to bring,” AccuWeather’s Kottlowski said