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Hurricane Season Off To Quiet Start

Scientists say this has been one of quietest hurricane seasons on record.

The 2009 hurricane season, which officially began June 1 and lasts until the end of November, has yet to produce a named tropical storm. Normally, nine or ten tropical storms form in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa each year. Five or six of those become hurricanes and threaten landfall in the Caribbean or southeastern United States.

"So far, it has been unusually quiet and it looks like it will stay that way for a while," says Stephen Leatherman, Director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University in Miami.

El Nino May Be The Reason

Leatherman said the weather phenomenon known as El Nino may be responsible for disrupting normal weather patterns this year, thwarting the formation of tropical storms.

El Nino is the name given to the appearance, every few years, of a large scale climate fluctions that produce unusually warm surface waters in the Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon can cause global climatic anomalies in the equatorial Pacific, Asia, and North America.

The effect produces dry conditions in the western United States that often lead to large brush and forest fires. In the central and eastern United States, just the opposite occurs and the result is above-average rain fall.

A Word Of Warning

For those who live in hurricane-prone regions, this year's abnormally quiet hurricane season still poses potential danger.

"People tend to be complacent when nothing happens and this is not good," said Leatherman. "My advice is to be prepared and never take anything for granted."

The 1992 hurricane season provides a case in point. That year also started off quietly, but it also saw one of the most destructive hurricanes in modern history. Hurricane Andrew was responsible for 65 deaths and $26.5 billion dollars in property damage when it devastated southern Florida.

Known to be among the most accurate at predicting tropical storms, forecasters at Colorado State University on Tuesday revised their earlier prediction of five hurricanes this season, to four.