Hurricane season shatters records

Residents of the Chamela community clear the debris left by Hurricane Patricia in the state of Jalisco, Mexico on October 24, 2015 (AFP Photo/Hector Guerrero)

Miami (AFP) - The 2015 hurricane season smashed records because of an unusually strong El Nino warming pattern, including the most powerful hurricane ever, US forecasters said Tuesday.

During the season, which ended Monday, scientists also recorded the biggest number of major Pacific hurricanes in a single season in 40 years and three hurricanes spinning over the ocean simultaneously for the first time.

Scientists blame El Nino for keeping meteorologists and alert services busy from May 15 in the East Pacific Ocean and from June 1 in the Atlantic and Central Pacific.

"El Nino produces a see-saw effect, suppressing the Atlantic season while strengthening the eastern and central Pacific hurricane seasons," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

"El Nino intensified into a strong event during the summer and significantly impacted all three hurricanes seasons during their peak months."

Most of the hurricanes that formed this year were relatively weak and short-lived, according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

But the Atlantic still managed to set several records with sometimes tragic consequences.

Hurricane Joaquin was the first Category Four storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale to hit the Bahamas since 1866.

It devastated the archipelago and caused the sinking of El Faro, a US cargo ship, and its 33 crew. No survivors were found.

In August, Hurricane Fred was the first to hit Cape Verde since 1892.

Tropical Storm Erika, while not rising to the level of a hurricane, killed 30 people and wreaked extensive damage in the small Caribbean island of Dominica in August.

In the Pacific, hurricane activity exceeded the average, with 18 storms, including 13 that became hurricanes -- among them nine major hurricanes.

It was the first time that nine major hurricanes were detected in the region since records began in 1971, NOAA said.

Among those, Patricia in October was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded, with sustained winds of 200 miles per hour (320 kph).

That trumped Typhoon Haiyan (196 miles per hour), which ravaged the Philippines in 2013, killing more than 6,000 people.

Patricia hit Mexico as a Category Five storm, the strongest on the scale. But the hurricane caused only material damage.

Three major hurricanes -- Ignacio, Kilo and Jimena -- churned at the same time, the first time such an event was recorded in the Pacific.