Hurricane Barrier

This image provided by NOAA NCEI shows a hurricane buffer zone on the Southeastern part of the U.S. A new study finds that subtle shifts in winds and water temperature during busy hurricane seasons often ends up providing a protective barrier or buffer that often weakens storms as they approach the U.S. coast. This handout image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Center for Environmental Information shows where the buffer zone is, based on ocean temperatures and changes in winds over decades. (NOAA NCEI via AP) ORG XMIT: WX101

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.