Hawaii hasn’t been threatened by a major tropical cyclone since 2009 — and with the 2012 hurricane season set to officially wrap up Friday, it’s safe to say it was another quiet year.
“We thought it might be a little bit of a below-normal season, but it ended up being even weaker than that,” said Robert Ballard, science and operations officer for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu.
Forecasters in May predicted two to four tropical cyclones would enter the Central Pacific this season, but only one did. Hurricane Daniel popped up in the Pacific in early July and died out far to the southeast of the Hawaiian Islands soon after entering the Central Pacific.
Ballard said 2012 saw fewer storms than estimated because an expected switch to an El Niño weather pattern from a La Niña weather pattern didn’t pan out.
“What that essentially means is that we don’t have either La Niña, which is cooler than normal sea surface temperatures, or El Niño, which is warmer than normal sea temperatures,” he said. What’s happening instead is called ENSO neutral, which is characterized by near-average sea surface temperatures. (“ENSO” stands for El Niño/Souther Oscillation.)