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Busy Hurricane Season Ends; El Niño A No-Show

NASA Goddard Photo and Video /Flickr

The Atlantic Hurricane season comes to its merciless end today.

It concludes in a busier-than-expected year punctuated by one of the most damaging storms on record, Hurricane Sandy.

When it began, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a near-normal season of anywhere between 9 and 15 named storms.

The final number turned out to be 19, with most systems--including the season's only major hurricane, Michael-- spinning out harmlessly in the ocean and posing little threat to land.

Isaac in late August and Sandy in late October were the notable exceptions.

The National Hurricane center's Dennis Feltgen says a visitor from the Pacific never showed up.

"We expected El Niño to develop, at least by the middle of the season. El Niño tends to suppress hurricane activity by increasing the wind shear across the tropics. El Niño never really materialized, so as a result we had a neutral year, which allowed for a more active pattern"

That active pattern shifted west with the jet stream late in the season, allowing Sandy to brush by Florida, and follow its destructive course to the northeast--a path forecasters have never seen in more than 150 years of tracking storms.

Feltgen says there's no also ignoring the role of sea-level rise  of exacerbating the effects of the season's most infamous storm, Hurricane Sandy.

"Living along the coastline is a great way of life for a lot of people. But we're throwing more people and more property in harms way.  We need to find a way to mitigate that, or the number of fatalities and certainly the damage, is only going to go up."

Sandy, which brushed by Florida and hit New Jersey and New York in late October, caused over 50-billion dollars in damage.

The other hurricane which made landfall in the US, Hurricane Isaac, which caused $2 billion in damage. Isaac came through Florida as a tropical storm, creating massive flooding in rural parts of Palm Beach county in August.

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