for National Geographic News
Hurricane forecasters believe a weather phenomenon called El Niño may make the rest of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season quieter than originally predicted.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines El Niño as a disruption of the ocean and atmospheric system in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
When this happens, there can be far-reaching consequences, including droughts in some places and flooding in others. But it can also suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic. The last time an El Niño occurred was 1997.
In a prepared statement, Colorado State University forecasters Phil Klotzbach and William Gray in Fort Collins say they see indications that an El Niño might form this fall.
The pair has therefore reduced for the second time the number of tropical storms they think will form in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.
The updated forecast, released September 1, predicts that 13 named tropical storms will form, with winds of at least 39 miles (63 kilometers) an hour.
Of those storms, the forecasters say, five will grow into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour, and two will become major hurricanes with winds exceeding 111 miles (179 kilometers) an hour.
So far six tropical storms have formed since the hurricane season began on June 1. The most recent of these is Florence, which strengthened into a tropical storm this afternoon.
Only one storm this season has become a hurricane. Ernesto briefly reached that status during its trek across the Caribbean Sea last month.
Ernesto later made landfalls in Haiti, Cuba, Florida, and North Carolina as a tropical storm.
The hurricane season ends November 30.
All Dried Out
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