Mild hurricane season ends

One of the mildest Atlantic basin hurricane seasons in recent memory comes to an end today.

The 2010 hurricane season was predicted by experts to have above-average activity at one point. However, several factors, particularly the onset of an El Niño weather pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean, acted to diminish tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic.

In the end, only 11 tropical cyclones formed in the Atlantic basin in 2010. Nine of those cyclones reached tropical storm strength to earn names. Three went on to become hurricanes and two – Bill and Fred – became major hurricanes of Category 3 or above. All three of the numbers were below the statistical long-term average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

The number of named storms and hurricanes were the lowest since 1997.

The 2009 season will also be known as a late season. The season’s first named storm, Ana, did not form until 15 August, the latest date for a named storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Only the late season storm Hurricane Ida caused any concern at all for the Cayman Islands. That storm, which formed in early November in the part of the southwest Caribbean where Hurricane Paloma got its genesis last year, stayed more than 200 miles west of the Cayman Islands, bringing only rain and gusty conditions.

Ida was one of only three named storms to make landfall this year. After making landfall as a hurricane in Nicaragua, Ida remerged in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequently made another landfall in Alabama.

The other tropical cyclones to make landfall were Tropical Storm Claudette, which came ashore in the Florida Panhandle, and Hurricane Bill, which grazed Nova Scotia and made another landfall in Newfoundland.

Bill became the strongest Atlantic hurricane in 2009, reaching Category 4 status with peak winds of 135 miles per hour. However, Bill had weakened considerably before making landfall and it caused minimal damage.

Weather scientists say it is too early to tell whether the Pacific Ocean El Niño will still be active for the 2010 Atlantic basin hurricane season, which begins 1 June. El Niño causes higher wind sheer in the upper atmosphere in the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic, inhibiting cyclone formation and strengthening.

The first predictions for the 2010 season will come out 9 December when the Colorado State University duo of Phil Klotzbach and William Gray make their annual long-range seasonal projections.

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