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Thanks to El Nino, Tropics Tamer in 2012

Less chance of a hurricane impacting the state this year.

While the number of named tropical weather systems this year is, thus far, about equal to 2011, most of the storms that formed fizzled out or were swept to sea before having had a chance to impact land.    

One potential reason: a weather pattern known as El Nino.

El Nino, Spanish for "the little boy" because it often is identified near Christmas, is a warm phase characterized by high pressure over the Pacific Ocean. It occurs about every five years, and has been identified as happening this year. The phenomenon is powerful enough to affect global weather patterns.

Last year, El Nino's opposite pattern – La Nina – was in effect, which brought low pressure to the Pacific.

"Upper level winds over the tropics are strong," said meteorologist Steve DiMartino of NYNJPAWeather.com, which has stunted development of tropical systems. "It's kind of like a buzz saw taking out these tropical systems before they reach North America."

The air has also been dry this year, and digging troughs have been turning most storms out to sea, said DiMartino.

"It's been and will continue to be a different season from last year," he said.

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