"NOAA's improvement in monitoring and predicting hurricanes has been remarkable over the decades since Andrew, in large part because of our sustained commitment to research and better technology. But more work remains to unlock the secrets of hurricanes, especially in the area of rapid intensification and weakening of storms,” said Lubchenco.

“We're stepping up to meet this challenge through our Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, which has already demonstrated exciting early progress toward improving storm intensity forecasts."

Lubchenco added that more accurate forecasts about a storm's intensity at landfall and extending the forecast period beyond five days will help America become a more Weather-Ready Nation.

In a more immediate example of research supporting hurricane forecasting, NOAA this season is introducing enhancements to two of the computer models available to hurricane forecasters — the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) models.

The HWRF model has been upgraded with a higher resolution and improved atmospheric physics. This latest version has demonstrated a 20 to 25 percent improvement in track forecasts and a 15 percent improvement in intensity forecasts relative to the previous version while also showing improvement in the representation of storm structure and size.

Improvements to the GFDL model for 2012 include physics upgrades that are expected to reduce or eliminate a high bias in the model's intensity forecasts.

The seasonal outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land.

Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts are provided by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, which continuously monitors the tropics for storm development and tracking throughout the season using an array of tools including satellites, advance computer modeling, hurricane hunter aircraft, and land- and ocean-based observations sources such as radars and buoys.

Next week, May 27- June 2, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week. To help prepare residents of hurricane-prone areas, video and audio public service announcements featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA administrator are available in both English and Spanish.

“Every hurricane season we ask families, communities, and businesses to ensure they are prepared and visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes,” said Tim Manning, FEMA deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness.

“Being prepared includes developing a family emergency plan, putting an emergency kit together or updating your existing kit, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved to ensure your community is ready.”

NOAA’s outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin is for a near-normal hurricane season and the Central Pacific basin is expected to have a below-normal season.

NOAA will issue an updated seasonal outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the historic peak of the season.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.