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Hurricane outlook

The government agrees: It will be a busy season.

As other major forecast outlets, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for an above-average hurricane season, which begins June 1.

What is different about the government outlook, compared with that of Accu-Weather Inc. and Colorado State University, is the wiggle room.

NOAA sees 12 to 18 named storms, those with winds of 39 m.p.h. or more; with 6 to 10 of those becoming hurricanes, with winds of at least 74 m.p.h., and 3 to 6 of those growing into majors, with winds of 111 m.p.h. or better.

That's quite a range, especially in that major category, but it all suggests above-normal activity. The averages are 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and three blockbusters.

The Accu-Weather numbers are 15, eight, and three; Colorado State, 16, 9 and 5.

The differences in the outlooks for the major hurricanes are significant, because those are the ones that tend to cause the most damage when they make landfall.

None of the outlooks is very specific about landfall sites, since that's still out of the realm of the science. Last year was amazingly busy, but not a single hurricane made U.S. landfall.

Whether that luck will continue is impossible to know.

In any event, the government says it is confident this will be a busy seasons because sea-surface temperatures in the hurricane-brewing zone of the Atlantic Ocean remain warm.

Also, tropical Pacific temperatures remain cool, and that argues against inter-oceanic winds that can shear off storms before they have a chance to grow into hurricanes.

Those favorable conditions coincide with an active hurricane era that began in 1995 and could continue an additional 10 to 25 years.