The Climate Prediction Center says there is a 62 percent chance that an El Niño develops this summer. If it does develop, it could hinder tropical development in the Atlantic basin.
The reason El Niño can reduce the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that develop in the Atlantic all has to do with wind shear. El Niño results in the reduction of wind shear over the Eastern Pacific, and an increase in wind shear over the Atlantic Basin.
Higher wind shear rips apart thunderstorms that develop over the ocean. This prevents storms from growing into tropical systems. Whereas, lower wind shear would allow thunderstorms to grow and develop into tropical systems.
Looking back at previous El Niño Atlantic hurricane seasons, there is evidence that there is a reduction in the number of storms that develop. Looking back at 2015, there were only 11 storms that developed through the entire season. Only two hurricanes and two major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, formed during that same season.
During La Niña years, there were more storms in the Atlantic Basin. 2010 saw 19 storms, seven were hurricanes, and five were major hurricanes. In the past few La Niña tropical seasons, there have been at least 12 or more storms.
Comparing the El Niño and La Niña hurricane seasons, the La Niña seasons tend to have more storms than the El Niño ones. There are also more hurricanes and more major hurricanes during a La Niña phase than during an El Niño phase.
Nevertheless, an El Niño does not guarantee a storm-free tropical season in the Atlantic. Even with El Niño in place, there have still been storms that develop and even some major hurricanes. When hurricane season starts in June we will start to watch for development in the Gulf of Mexico and along parts of the East Coast.