(Bloomberg) — Rising heat in the equatorial Pacific Ocean portends the quietest Atlantic hurricane season in five years, Colorado State University researchers said.

Nine named storms, with winds of at least 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour, are expected to develop this year, with three of them growing into hurricanes and one becoming a major storm, said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the forecast.

The last time the Atlantic produced only nine named storms was 2009, which was also a year in which an El Nino formed, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. That was the least number of such storms since 1997, which had eight.

El Nino is important to the forecast because warm waters in the equatorial Pacific trigger atmospheric changes that lead to more wind shear across the tropical Atlantic.

Shear is when winds at different altitudes blow in multiple directions or speeds. That can tear apart the structure of a budding tropical system, rip the top off a hurricane or knock a storm over, weakening it or breaking it apart.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Nino watch this year, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology says the chances are greater than 70% that one will form.

Colorado State’s hurricane outlook is one of the leading forecasts because William Gray, now professor emeritus of atmospheric science, pioneered seasonal predictions.

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