Miami: The Pacific`s El Nino ocean-warming phenomenon has resulted in an especially calm Atlantic hurricane season - a welcome respite for Caribbean and southeastern US residents still smarting from a 2008 pounding.
There have only been two hurricanes in the 2009 Atlantic season, which runs from June 1 to late November 30, but normally peaks in September and October.
Hurricane Bill reached powerful Category Four intensity on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale in mid-August. It bypassed most of the Caribbean and the US east coast, making landfall in southeastern Canada and causing modest damage.
Hurricane Fred formed in the Atlantic in early September, but petered out over the ocean before making landfall.
"We were expecting very little activity this season," said Lixion Avila, a weather expert at the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre.
"This happens when the El Nino phenomenon is present in the Pacific, the water warms up there, and that leads to hurricanes forming there and not in the Atlantic."
Every three to six years, water currents shift along the equator in the Pacific and the ocean warms a few degrees, a phenomenon dubbed El Nino - Spanish for "the boy," a reference to Christ the infant because the warming is usually noticed around Christmas.
The El Nino effect was powerfully demonstrated on Saturday after warm waters prompted Hurricane Rick to roar to top Category Five status as it barreled up Mexico`s Pacific coast.