By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University are predicting a slightly above-average 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

A primary factor in their forecast is the relatively low likelihood of a significant El Niño.

The severely damaged Sea Breeze Trailer Park complex is shown following powerful Hurricane Irma on September 12, 2017 in Islamorada, a village encompassing six of the Florida Keys. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 14 named storms this season, seven of which will become hurricanes. They expect three of those hurricanes to reach major hurricane status, meaning sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

An average season produces 12 named storms.

In 2017, three major hurricanes struck US soil: Harvey, Irma and Maria. Those three storms all rank among the top five costliest in history.

Researchers are comparing this year’s hurricane season to 1960, 1967, 1996, 2006 and 2011.

“The years 1960, 1967 and 2006 had near-average Atlantic hurricane activity, while 1996 and 2011 were both above-normal hurricane seasons,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.

Forecast track for Hurricane Maria. (credit: National Weather Service / Twitter)

Researchers say there is a 63 percent chance for a major hurricane to strike the U.S. coastline this season. The average for the last century is 52 percent.

The CSU team will issue forecast updates on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.

Although hurricane season in the Atlantic starts June 1, the majority of storms occur between mid-August and mid-October, meaning this prediction is coming four months before the bulk of hurricane activity.

Forecasts by the team at CSU are meant to provide estimates of the upcoming season, not exact measurements.

This is the 35th year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued the Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast. Recently, the Tropical Meteorology Project team has expanded to include Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science. William Gray launched the report in 1984 and continued to be an author on them until his death in 2016.

There is a 63% chance of the continental US being hit by a major hurricane this season.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)

Meteorologist Chris Spears travels weekly in the CBS4 Mobile Weather Lab reporting about Colorado’s weather and climate. Check out his bio, connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.