The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is the period in 2012 during which tropical cyclones will form in the Atlantic Ocean. The season officially started on June 1 and ended on November 30, dates which conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical systems form in the basin.
The 2012 season was an unusual and destructive season. It was the second season to exhaust the naming list, although unlike 2005, the season ended with the 'W' storm. Two of the most unusual storms were Ernesto, which was the first storm to exist in five different basins, forming in the Caribbean Sea, traversing the Pacific and dissipating in the Gulf of Oman in the Indian basin. Florence remained within 300 miles of the African coastline for most of its life and rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane before rapidly weakening.
The 2012 season had a record 6 Category 5 hurricanes, with three having pressures below 900 millibars (Ernesto also had a pressure below 900 mbars, but reached this intensity while in the Western Pacific).
In early June, a large extratropical low developed in the Gulf of Mexico. Gale force winds were produced as far west as Baton Rouge and as far east as Jacksonville. On June 4, the storm was determined to have developed a warm core center about 160 miles south of Pensacola. That night, surface observations supported the presence of a closed circulation and the system was declared Subtropical Storm Alberto. Twenty-four hours later, Alberto made landfall near Port Saint Joe, Florida with 60-mph winds. On June 7, the center of Alberto emerged into the Atlantic near Savannah, Georgia. Twelve hours later, it reached its peak intensity of 65-mph, which it maintained until it became extratropical.
Alberto's subtropical status is disputed, and Alberto had more extratropical characteristics than tropical. In the days before being declared a named storm, the system was one of the causes of a massive tornado outbreak.
In early July, an extratropical low near Bermuda began to take on more tropical characteristics. On July 9, the system was declared Subtropical Storm Beryl. Twelve hours later, it was determined to have become a tropical cyclone. The storm raced north reaching a speed of 62-mph, making it one of the fastest moving tropical cyclones on record. On July 11, it unexpectedly reached hurricane strength as it passed Newfoundland. Beryl became extratropical later that day.
In mid-July, a tropical wave that had been moving across the Atlantic for the last week was beginning to become more organized. On July 23, a Hurricane Hunter aircraft discovered that the system had developed a closed circulation and was now Tropical Depression Three. The storm barely intensified for the first 24 hours, but was upgraded to Tropical Storm Chris on July 24. The storm gradually intensified until it approached Cuba, and quickly intensified to a 90-mph hurricane. The hurricane made landfall in Pinar del Rio early on July 26 as a Category 2 hurricane. The passage over Cuba weakened Chris to a minimal hurricane, but interaction with the loop current caused Chris to undergo explosive intensification as it moved over the Gulf. In a 30-hour period, the central pressure dropped from 987 millibars to 908 millibars, a 79 millibar drop, while the winds increased from 75-mph to 165-mph. Early on July 28, Chris made landfall in Plaquimines Parish, Louisiana with 160-mph winds, making it the fourth Category 5 hurricane to strike the United States, following the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille of 1969, and Hurricane Andrew of 1992. The hurricane made two more landfalls in Saint Bernard Parish as a 155-mph hurricane and in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi as a 150-mph hurricane. Chris rapidly weakened as it moved inland and became extratropical late on the 29th.
Chris was the strongest July hurricane on record. It was also the third strongest hurricane recorded to strike the United States, behind the Labor Day Hurricane and Hurricane Camille. Despite coming closer to New Orleans at a higher intensity, the damage from Chris was not as severe as it was during Katrina, although along the Mississippi coast, damage in some areas were described as "worse than Katrina."
On August 2, Hurricane Hunters investigating an area of low pressure in the western Caribbean discovered a closed circulation that was well removed from much of the convection. Despite the lack of organization, the system was designated Tropical Depression Four. Throughout the day of the 2nd and the 3rd, the depression gradually organized and reached tropical storm strength shortly before making landfall in Cuba. Initially, Debby was expected to dissipate over Cuba, but it retained tropical storm status as it crossed the island, and began to re-intensify as it emerged over the Atlantic. On August 7, Debby reached its peak intensity of 70-mph, before being declared extratropical the next day.
The following names were used to name storms that formed in 2012. The names not retired from this list will be used again in the 2018 season. Names not assigned are marked in gray. The names Kirk, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie and William were used for the first time this season.
In Spring of 2013, the WMO retired the names Alberto, Chris, Ernesto, Gordon, Helene, Joyce, Kirk, Michael, Nadine, Patty, Rafael, Sandy and Valerie. The thirteen names retired this year is more than double the previous record of five during the 2005 season. The names were replaced with Alonzo, Clifford, Esteban, Gerald, Harriet, Jessica, Kenny, Melvin, Natalie, Polly, Raul, Shelby and Vivienne for the 2018 season. Alberto was the third storm in Atlantic history to be retired without reaching hurricane strength (following Allison in 2001 and Matthew in 2010) and the only system to have never been considered a tropical cyclone. Ernesto was the first Atlantic system that was retired for damages done outside of the Atlantic basin, with the brunt of the devastation being done in India and Oman. Oscar was the fifth Category 5 hurricane that did not have its name retired.