Colorado forecasters scale back 2018 Atlantic hurricane threat

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Colorado State University forecasters cut their estimate of storm activity during the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, citing cooler ocean temperatures and the likely formation of a weak El Niño.

Colorado State forecasters Philip Klotzbach and Michael Bell expect there will 10 named storms in the 2018 season that began on June 1, below average for the period. Four of those storms are projected to be hurricanes with wind speeds of 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers per hour).

Only one major hurricane is expected, according to their updated forecast issued on Monday. Major hurricanes pack wind speeds of at least 111 mph (179 kph).

Previously, Klotzbach and Bell had forecast 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes, three of which they had expected would be major.

The average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, three of them major. The hurricane season lasts for six months, finishing on Nov. 30.

In 2017, there were 17 named tropical storms including 10 hurricanes, of which six were major hurricanes.

A weak El Niño pattern can limit storms. It forms when sea temperatures in the tropical Pacific are warmer than average, and cause higher speed, high-level winds across the southern United States, reducing tropical storm formation.

The U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration said in late May that its forecasters estimated between one and four major hurricanes.

The NOAA forecast also said about half of the 10 to 16 named storms will be hurricane strength.

The only storm in the Atlantic basin so far this year was Subtropical Storm Alberto, which formed on May 25 and dissipated on May 31 after making landfall in the Florida panhandle.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Phil Berlowitz