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Hurricane season looks to be near-normal this year

Several factors are contributing to the near-normal hurricane outlook. Among them, sea-surface temperatures in regions where the Atlantic's tropical cyclones form, and conditions in the tropical Pacific that have an extended influence over weather patterns elsewhere.

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Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security talked at the National Hurricane Center in Miami during a news conference kicking off the first day of the hurricane season Friday. At her right is Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. While not officially beginning until June 1, the season has already seen two named storms.

Peter Andrew/Miami Herald/AP

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Look for a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year.

That's the outlook from several groups who produce seasonal forecasts for the Atlantic hurricane season, which began Friday.

Here's a sampler:

• The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration anticipates a 70 percent chance that from nine to 15 storms will reach tropical-storm status and earn names. Between four and eight will become hurricanes. Of those, from one to three are expected to become major hurricanes, where maximum sustained winds top 111 miles an hour.

• At Colorado State University, where atmospheric scientist William Gray pioneered seasonal tropical cyclone forecasts, he and colleague Philip Klotzbach anticipate 13 named storms, five hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.

• Researchers at Florida State University give the season a 70 percent chance of producing 10 to 16 named storms, and from five to nine hurricanes.

• Tropical Storm Risk.com, a consortium of scientists and insurance-industry specialists based in Britain, is anticipating (in round numbers) 13 tropical storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

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The average between 1981 and 2010, the base period federal forecasters now use for determining above- or below-normal conditions, is 12 named storms a year, of which half reach hurricane status.

Several factors are contributing to the near-normal outlook. Among them, sea-surface temperatures in regions where the Atlantic's tropical cyclones form, and conditions in the tropical Pacific that have an extended influence over weather patterns elsewhere.

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