Despite bringing relatively little damage to the United States mainland and energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2010 hurricane season, which officially ended Tuesday, was one of the busiest in years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

"As NOAA forecasters predicted, the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, though fortunately most storms avoided the U.S. For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant," said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

Between the June 1 start to the hurricane season and Tuesday, a total of 19 named storms formed in the Atlantic basin, with 12 of them becoming hurricanes, including five intense hurricanes (Category Three or greater). On the eve of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA said it expected 14-23 named storms, including eight to 14 hurricanes, three to seven of them intense (see Daily GPI, May 28).

The long-term (1950-2009) averages for the Atlantic hurricane season are 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two intense hurricanes; the 1995-2009 averages are 14/eight/four.

The number of named storms that formed in the Atlantic basin this year tied with the 1887 and 1995 hurricane seasons for third highest on record, and the number of hurricanes tied 1969 for second highest on record, NOAA said.

The near-record 2010 numbers were driven by record warm Atlantic waters, favorable winds coming from Africa, weak wind shear and a La Nina event off the western coast of South America.

But short-term weather patterns, including the position of the jet stream and the tendency of this year's tropical storms to form in the extreme eastern Atlantic, helped to keep many of 2010's storms away from the United States, NOAA said.

NOAA wasn't alone in predicting significant hurricane activity this year. Colorado State University forecasters predicted an active hurricane season (see Daily GPI, Aug. 5) and Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi said 2010 would be one of the most active seasons on record (see Daily GPI, May 20). With a dozen tropical storms already named by mid-September, WSI Corp. forecasters increased their forecast to a total of 18 named storms, including 10 hurricanes, six of them intense (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22).

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