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Curtain Closes on One of Busiest Hurricane Seasons

Most Americans may not have realized it, but the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends today (Nov. 30), was a doozy, ranking among the busiest on record.

While the hurricane season, which began June 1, saw a lot of storms, few had an impact on the United States.

The Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, had 19 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes) in all, which placed the season in a tie with 1887 and 1995 as the third busiest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The busiest season on record remains 2005, which saw 28 named storms, including Hurricane Katrina.

Of the storms that formed this season, 12 became hurricanes — the second-highest number on record, tied with 1969 — and five of those reached major hurricane status (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength).

An average Atlantic season produces 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Predictions for the 2010 season called for 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes.

Several climate features influenced storm formation this year: record warm Atlantic water temperatures; winds blowing off the west coast of Africa; and La Niña conditions that bolstered storms in part by reducing wind shear — the difference in wind direction at different heights in the atmosphere, which can lop off the tops of developing storms.

While these larger-scale patterns influenced storm development, other weather conditions influenced where the storms went.

The jet stream — the continental-scale west-to-east flow of upper-level winds — acted as a barrier that kept many storms over open water. The fact that many storms formed in the far eastern Atlantic also meant that most storms curved out to sea instead of making landfall in the United States.

"For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant," said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

Not everyone got through the storm season so easily. Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rain to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, and several storms, including Hurricane Alex, battered eastern Mexico and Central America with heavy rain, mudslides and deadly flooding.

This article was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site of LiveScience.

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