The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is calling for a "near normal" 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.
Forecasters anticipate nine to 15 named storms this season, Dr. Robert Detrick, director of NOAA's Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, said.
Four to eight of those storms will likely become hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph. One to three of those hurricanes could form major hurricanes, with top winds of 111 mph.
These predictions are based on temperatures, wind shear and other factors, Detrick said.
The formation of El Niño in late summer or early fall could shift these predictions to the lower end of the range, he said.
Two storms have already been named before the official start on the Atlantic hurricane season — Tropical Storm Alberto and Hurricane Bud. Hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Peak months of storm activity are August, September and October.
The 2012 predictions are lower than predictions made in 2011, when forecasters called for of 14 to 19 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.
Detrick said NOAA will use new tools this year to measure, track and collect data from the storms, including small robotic boats that will gather information from inside the eye of the hurricane. In a partnership with NASA, scientists will also be able to analyze data collected from aircraft overhead.
During a conference call with members of the press on Thursday, scientists stressed the need for preparedness.
"The bottom line here is to prepare," Detrick said.
Tim Manning, the deputy administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said, "The most important time to prepare is now."
For more information about preparing for the hurricane season, visit FEMA's website.