This year's hurricane season will likely be more active than normal, the director of the National Hurricane Center director warned on Wednesday, one day after a leading researcher forecast a "very active" season.

The El Nino weather pattern that suppressed hurricane development last year has diminished, and wind patterns appear to be shifting in a way that would lead tropical systems toward land rather than keeping them at sea, center director Bill Proenza said at the National Hurricane Conference.

It appears that "we tend to go back to an above normal season" this year, in line with a theory that the Atlantic is in a decades-long active period that started in 1995, he said.

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Still "there are a lot of things that could happen in the atmosphere that could have a bearing on the season," he said.

El Nino is the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that can affect weather around the world.

William Gray, a top hurricane forecaster, on Tuesday predicted a "very active" season this year with at least nine hurricanes — five of them major hurricanes — and a good chance that one major hurricane will hit the U.S. coast.

Gray, based at Colorado State University, predicts a total of 17 named storms this year.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, averages 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.

The National Hurricane Center will issue its forecast for the 2007 season in late May.