By Letitia Stein

TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) - Federal forecasters on Thursday downgraded their outlook for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, predicting "below normal" activity with seven to 12 named storms, no more than two of which are expected to reach major hurricane status.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it was more confident of a below-normal season than when it issued its initial advisory in May, when a "near or below normal" season was predicted.

The revised forecast predicts 70 percent chances of a below-normal season, compared to the 50 percent odds issued by NOAA' forecasters in May.

A typical season has 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three hurricanes reaching major Category 3 status. The six month-long hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

In its new outlook, the agency cited the strengthening of climate conditions that are not favorable to hurricane development, including cooler than average temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Conditions are still favorable for the formation this year of El Niño, a climate pattern that creates strong wind shear, making it harder for storms to develop into hurricanes.

"Nonetheless, tropical storms and hurricanes can strike the U.S. during below-normal seasons, as we have already seen this year when Arthur made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 2 hurricane," said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Hurricane Arthur struck the North Carolina coast in July with little serious damage.

Bertha, the second hurricane of the 2014 Atlantic season, has dissipated in the ocean after weakening earlier this week to a tropical storm while it skirted the U.S. East Coast.


(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Sandra Maler)