(WGHP) — We just finished the winter season and had frost and freeze conditions earlier this week, but we are already thinking about Hurricane Season.

Here in North Carolina, we all know what these storms can do to our state — wind damage, tornadoes and terrible flooding — so it is something we should always pay attention to and prepare for.

This year, we have one thing in our favor that may help us out: El Niño.

Latest El Niño Map

After being in a La Niña pattern the last few years, it has now flipped. El Niño is when the ocean water in the Eastern Pacific is warmer than normal. It is already being observed. La Niña is the opposite when this water is cooler.

During an El Niño, it has an impact on weather conditions over in the Atlantic.

Typical El Niño Impacts

The warmer-than-normal water warms the air above and produces a stronger southern jet stream. This adds more wind energy in the southern latitudes, and this produces more wind shear in the Atlantic. Tropical systems do not like wind shear. It can cause them to fall apart or weaken. Given this combination, there are normally fewer tropical systems.

Fewer tropical systems is better than more, of course, but it only takes one powerful storm in a populated place to make it a bad year. Take for example 1992. It was an El Niño year. We only had seven storms and four hurricanes in the Atlantic that year and only one major hurricane. These numbers we half the amounts we would normally experience. Still, that one major hurricane was Andrew and one of the worst hurricanes of the century when it hit the heavily populated Miami, Florida, area and then went across the Gulf and caused major problems in Louisiana. So we should pay attention and respect every season.

North Carolina State University, the school of the new director of the National Hurricane Center, has already put out their Tropical Season forecast.

NC State Hurricane Season Forecast

Their forecast for this year is near normal across the board. In my opinion, this may be because El Niño is still building and may not be very strong this summer and early fall. The National Hurricane Center usually puts out their forecast in May. Stay tuned.