Hurricane hiatus

In its 10th day as a fish storm, Nadine continues to spin rather purposelessly in the far-eastern North Atlantic, toward the Azore Islands that Columbus passed on his way to the New World 520 years ago.

Nadine was designated a named storm -- one with winds of at least 39 m.p.h. -- back on Sept. 12, and as of this afternoon, an "Oscar" isn't even a gleam in the atmosphere's eye.

Near the climatological peak of hurricane activity, that represents the longest lull between the development of fresh storms in the Atlantic Basin since Aug. 1.

"We are right now in the very heart of the hurricane season and it is a little bit unusual not to have anything going,"  said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and the official spokesman at the National Hurricane Center.

"We're thankful for that."

"The models aren't showing anything at all coming for the next 10 days," said Jeff Masters, meteorologist at the popular Weather Underground site.

But Feltgen sounded like someone who was waiting for other shoes to drop. “I’d  be willing to bet that this is not the end," he said. "That would be too easy.”

So far this been quite an active season. This is the 14th storm to earn a name, and the normal for the entire June 1-Nov. 30 season is about 11.

Feltgen and Masters said the lull could be related to the El Nino developing in the tropical Pacific.

During El Nino, surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific become warmer than usual, heat the overlying air, and generate strong upper-air winds from the west that can rip apart potential hurricanes.

Some indications are that the shear will pick up the end of the month, Masters said. "It does look like a quiet rest of September," he added. That doesn't mean the season's over; September lulls aren't all that unusual, he said.

One thing that can be counted on is a general westward shift of tropical-storm activity.

The "Cape Verde" season, during which waves bound off the west African coast and scare the daylights out of East Coast residents is winding down.

As the season progress, storms tend to form farther westward. For now, however, the Atlantic tropics remain generally quite. Could that continue?

"I'd be thrilled," said Feltgen, "but I wouldn't bet the bank on it."