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Hurricane Experts Wary of Huge Mass of Warm Water in the Atlantic

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- A large section of the North Atlantic that's about three degrees above normal has made weather forecasters wary this hurricane season.

A mild winter and prevailing southerly winds have had an impact on an area about 1,000 kilometres by 1,000 kilometres, said officials with the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S.

The area stretches from the coast of Maine to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland.

"The possible implications of those warmer-than-normal waters would be their inability to weaken tropical storms if they should move into our part of the world," meteorologist Chris Fogarty said yesterday.

Hurricanes tend to lose power as they pass over cooler water.

A few degrees may not seem like much, but it has the potential to strengthen a storm's capacity for damage by as much as 50%.

When hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia in 2003 it was moving over water three to four degrees above normal.

"That storm didn't weaken quite as quickly as it would normally, and that was due partly to warmer waters at the time," said Fogarty. "We're seeing a similar pattern with water temperatures this year."

The moistened atmosphere could also lead to more thunderstorms this hurricane season, which runs from June until November.

While it's too early to predict a major storm will hit the region this year, Fogarty is warning residents to always be prepared.

"The bottom line is that Atlantic Canadians should be aware that tropical storms affect us."

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