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Below-average Atlantic Hurricane Season Is Forecast

By Kevin Gray

MIAMI (Reuters) - The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be quieter than normal, with a below-average number of storms and hurricanes, a leading U.S. hurricane forecasting team said on Thursday.

Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) predicted this year's season will see nine tropical storms, three of which will intensify into a hurricane and one becoming a major hurricane with winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

A typical season has 12 tropical storms, with six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, according to CSU. The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

Phil Klotzbach, who heads the CSU team, said the lower forecast was based on cooler waters in the tropical Atlantic and expectations that El Nino, the climate pattern that creates wind shear, making it harder for storms to develop into hurricanes, will form this year.

"The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and the chances of a moderate to strong El Nino event this summer and fall appear to be quite high," he said.

"Historical data indicate fewer storms form in these conditions."

The El Nino phenomenon is marked by a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean.

There is a 35 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coast this year, the forecasters said.

The chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. East Coast including Florida is 20 percent. There is a 19 percent chance of a hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico, where major oil and gas installations are located.

Last year, the CSU team predicted above-average storm activity. In the end, the 2013 season turned out to be one of the weakest in decades, with 13 named storms and two hurricanes, neither of them major.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (http://www.noaa.gov/), the U.S. government's top climate agency, is expected to release its hurricane forecast next month.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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