Quirk may shield US slightly during busy hurricane seasons

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WASHINGTON A new study finds a climatic quirk seems to be slightly shielding the U.S. coast during busy hurricane seasons, often weakening major storms just as they approach America's beaches.

That could help explain why it has been more than 11 years since a major hurricane hit the United States.

Federal climate scientist Jim Kossin, the study's author, said last year's Hurricane Matthew illustrates this "protective barrier" of stronger crosswinds and cooler coastal waters. Matthew devastated Haiti with 145 mph winds but fizzled to 75 mph when it hit South Carolina.

Kossin mapped sea surface temperatures and wind shear levels in the Atlantic to see small changes near the U.S. coast - but only during a busy cycle, which is happening now.

The study is in Wednesday's journal Nature.