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Building El Niño cancels Hurricane havoc

Pacific system nixes Atlantic storms

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Not a single Atlantic hurricane made landfall in the US this season, marking something of a contrast with last year's rather busier and windier experience.

That is not to say the storms did not form: the final tally was nine storms, with five making the hurricane category. Of these, just two managed to win promotion to the heady realms of "major hurricane", with windspeed topping 130mph.

Although the season officially finishes November 30, the final storm of 2005 was still raging as the year flipped into 2006. The last hurricane of the season was Issac, which blew itself out by the beginning of October.

Compared with the 2005 season, it was quiet indeed. Last year there were 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and four made landfall, including Katrina and Rita.

After such an active season, experts had predicted a quieter year in 2006, but not this quiet. Between 13 and 16 storms were expected to be named, rather than the nine that made the grade.

So what is behind the drop off in activity? Is this the end of global warming? The BBC reports that the dearth of stormy weather is behind attributed to a building, but weak, El Niño event.

This influx of warm water in the Pacific is triggered by slower-than-average trade winds. Researchers think it disrupts hurricane formation because it creates strong upper wind shear. The shear shreds the top of the thunderstorm at the centre of a hurricane, causing it to lose intensity and wind strength, and to dissipate much faster.

The El Nino event is expected to last until well into 2007. ®

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