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US Officials to Release Hurricane Season Forecast

The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier, constructed after Hurricane Katrina to prevent tidal surges from hurricanes from reaching New Orleans, is seen in St. Bernard Parish, La., June 22, 2012.

The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season Wednesday.

Hurricane season officially runs June 1 through Nov. 30. But this season's first storm, Tropical Storm Ana, came ashore in North Carolina earlier this month, bringing rain from Virginia to South Carolina. It did not cause any major problems.

This will be the 10th hurricane season since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Administrator Kathryn Sullivan will join Joe Nimmich, deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu at a news conference Wednesday to release the forecast.

The weather phenomenon called El Nino generally means fewer hurricanes. The head of the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, Mike Halpert, said in March, though, that this year's El Nino is happening late and is weak.

University of Colorado scientists William Gray and Philip Klotzenbach said in April they expect one of the least active seasons since the mid-20th century, based on the chance of an El Nino of at least moderate strength this summer and autumn. Their early prediction was for seven named storms, three of them hurricanes, and one of those hurricanes major.

In an email Tuesday, Klotzbach said the El Nino has strengthened considerably since March.

"At this point, it is best to characterize it as a moderate-strength event, and we anticipate the event to likely be strong by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season," he wrote. "A strong El Nino will likely significantly reduce storm formation in the Atlantic basin."

El Nino is a warming in one part of the central Pacific. It changes weather patterns worldwide. In addition to fewer Atlantic hurricanes, El Ninos are associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere and generally warmer global temperatures.