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Quiet hurricane season predicted, thanks to El Niño

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Lixion Avila, of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, addresses a hurricane seminar in Mérida that has been an annual event since Wilma hit 12 years ago. Photo: Courtesy

Mérida, Yucatán —The 12th International Seminar on Hurricanes concludes at the Hyatt today, where experts are calling for a below-normal season this year.

But that doesn’t rule out dangerous weather sometime this year, especially after hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November. 

AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting 10 named storms in the Atlantic, five of which are projected to become hurricanes and three of which may become major hurricanes. These storms often form in the Caribbean where they could possibly aim at the Peninsula.

Dr. Omar García, director of the Institute of Astronomy and Meteorology of the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, said that by nature the Yucatan Peninsula is very vulnerable and a dangerous place when it is hit by a cyclone of intensity. 

Guest speaker Lixion Ávila, a specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said that it only takes one hurricane in Yucatán to be able to call it a rough season. 

The meeting in Mérida was organized by Héctor Navarrete Muñoz, the regional director of Grupo Asur, which runs the airport. Asur runs hurricane-preparation training every year since it confronted Hurricane Wilma 12 years ago.

The quiet hurricane season is linked to a predicted return of the El Niño weather pattern, which is characterized by warmer-than-normal ocean water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator.

It typically causes episodes of strong westerly winds in the tropical Atlantic, which inhibit the development of storms.

Forecasters don’t know yet how quickly El Niño will develop and how strong it will become, but they appear certain that it will eventually form.

If the El Niño pattern becomes moderate in the late summer and fall, hurricane season could end early, says AccuWeather.

The 2017 season follows the deadliest in over 10 years for the Atlantic basin. Last season spawned 15 named storms, seven of which were hurricanes. It was also the costliest Atlantic hurricane season since 2012.

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