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2006 Hurricane Season: Quieter Than Expected

November 30, 2006

By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, James West

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The 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season came to a quiet, anti-climatic end November 30, nearly two months after the last Atlantic hurricane, Isaac, faded over the north Atlantic.

The 2006 season will go down in history as being surprisingly quiet and uneventful. The Atlantic basin, which consists of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and tropical North Atlantic, generated nine named storms this year, five of which became hurricanes. Two Hurricanes, Gordon and Helene, became major hurricanes with wind speeds in excess of 111 mph.

This season was below normal and significantly less active than the record-shattering 2005 season, when 28 named storms formed, 15 became hurricanes and 7 grew into major storms. On average, 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricane form each year.

Late this Spring, most forecasters, including government and university experts, were calling for the 2006 season to be well-above average, but not a record shattering season as seen in 2005. Above-normal tropical water temperatures plus being in the middle of 20 to 30 year cycle of higher hurricane activity were a few of the reasons pointing to the active season.

However, an unexpected early and strong El Nino, strong upper-level winds tearing apart the infant storms needed for tropical cyclone development and a larger than normal amount of African dust blowing over and across the Atlantic were all factors that contributed to the lack of tropical development, especially from late August onward.

El Nino is the periodic warming of the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean off the South American Coast. It can have a dramatic effect on weather conditions around the globe and suppresses the development of storms in the Atlantic hurricane zone.

Of the nine storms that formed, only two tropical storms, Alberto on June 13 and Ernesto on August 29 made landfall on the U.S. The storms caused an estimated $100 million in damage.

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