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La Nina could mean bigger hurricane season

READ MORE: La Nina could mean bigger hurricane season
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- We're about a month and a half into the 2010 hurricane season, with only one named storm so far, but cooling water in the pacific may start to stir up trouble in the Atlantic.

We've all heard about El Nino before, but this year, it's all about La Nina. It's a lesser known phenomenon that can be just as powerful, and is playing a big role in this year's hurricane forecast. El Nino has been making headlines now for decades as it wreaks havoc on weather patterns across the globe, but in the weather world, El Nino's cousin La Nina can be just as disruptive.

This is what happens during a typical El Nino setup, water over the equator in the Pacific Ocean warms much more than normal, as much as two degrees Celsius. This sends big signals across the globe and changed our weather last year. It not only gave us a cool, wet winter, but a quiet 2009 hurricane season by stomping out storms in the Atlantic due to increased areas of wind shear, which rip hurricanes apart.

This year, the scene has flip-flopped. El Nino is gone, and the water is now cooler than normal, which happens during a La Nina. The latest imagery of the pacific this week shows the cooler waters stretching halfway across the ocean, as much as two degrees below normal in spots.

To be officially classified as a La Nina, these conditions need to persist for several months, but this setup has only been strengthening, and we look to be on our way to a long lived La Nina.

But how does this impact our weather in the Carolinas? Not surprisingly, this reverse setup often has largely opposite weather affects across the globe. That means instead of suppressing hurricane development, La Nina encourages it. We see decreased wind shear across the tropical Atlantic, meaning there are fewer winds tearing storms apart and making it easier for storms to form and survive. This, combined with Atlantic Ocean temperatures well above normal, is one of the reasons why this year's hurricane forecast is calling for a whopping 14 to 23 named storms in 2010.

If this year's season is an active one, La Nina may be to blame. La Nina has sparked big hurricane seasons in the past. Most recently, La Nina years in 2007 and 2008 saw 15 and 16 named storms respectively; not to mention 1999, which brought Hurricane Floyd to our shores, was also a La Nina year.

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