Mix of Factors Weakened Hurricanes This Season

The Atlantic Hurricane season ends Friday. Scientists argue about whether global warming is affecting hurricanes, and this year won't help settle the question. Fourteen named storms appeared in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, but most were relatively weak; some might not have been counted at all in years past.

Only one hurricane made landfall in the U.S. this season. A Category 1 storm named Humberto struck the Northeast coast of Texas in September, causing about $50 million in damage.

Greg Jenkins, an atmospheric scientist at Howard University, says it's easy to draw the wrong conclusion about the hurricane season when the United States doesn't get hit badly.

"We tend to say, well, if we don't get hit by a big one, then things weren't that bad," Jenkins says, "but if you go into Central America or you go into Mexico, they had the Katrinas of 2005" — or Dean and Felix.

Dean plowed across Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in August, bringing 165 mph winds. Two weeks later, Felix pummeled the border between Nicaragua and Honduras with similar intensity. Together, the storms killed about 175 people.

The 2007 hurricane season raises troublesome questions for meteorologists and for people who are trying to decide whether the total number of storms has increased because of global warming.

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