El Niño Returns to Pacific, May Limit Atlantic Storms

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2009 4:33 PM CDT
This NOAA satellite image taken in 2008 shows a swirl of clouds off the coast of Central America in the Eastern Pacific Ocean associated with Tropical Storm Alma.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – An El Niño has developed in the Pacific, a boon to Americans living near the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast who can expect fewer hurricanes as a result, the Palm Beach Post reports. The NOAA reported the conditions in June, and they could keep up through winter. “If it persists, we're in for a pretty quiet season,” says a Miami forecaster. But a newly identified phenomenon could spoil the optimism.

Georgia Tech scientists recently reported a system called El Niño Modoki, in which warming occurs further west in the Pacific and actually results in more hurricanes for Easterners. There’s “about a 50 percent chance that we could have one of the Modoki years emerging by late summer,” a forecaster said. The last such year was 2004, which produced 15 named storms.