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Renowned hurricane forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University speaks at a conference in May 2007. Colorado State's seasonal hurricane forecasts were in danger of ending due to lack of funding. / Lynne Sladky, AP

They didn't want to end on such a sour note.

Following the self-described "worst" seasonal hurricane forecast in 30 years in 2013, Colorado State University (CSU) meteorologists Phil Klotzbach and William Gray were at risk of losing funding for their well-known Tropical Meteorology Project.

But there is hope for this season, at least for now: "While we are not fully funded, we have made some reasonable progress in obtaining funding over the past few weeks," Klotzbach writes in an e-mail.

"At this point, we will definitely put out the forecast in April and will hopefully follow that up with updates in June and August," he said. "I am currently in negotiations with several other potential sponsors."

For the past three decades, the program has issued preseason forecasts for the expected number of Atlantic Ocean tropical storms and hurricanes. The CSU team was the first program to issue such a forecast; since then, it's been joined by several other groups, including the federal government, private forecasters and other university meteorology programs.

Last year, despite a prediction of nine hurricanes, only two formed.

Though late winter is as far from hurricane season as we can get, it's never far from the minds of scientists such as Klotzbach and the 84-year old Gray, a CSU institution who is considered the "dean" of seasonal hurricane forecasting. In fact, the CSU hurricane researchers are some of the only people who study hurricane forecasts full time, Klotzbach said.

Insurance companies, emergency managers and the news media use the forecasts from Colorado State to prepare Americans for the season's likely hurricane threat

Last June, the program lost $100,000 of annual funding from an insurance company, Klotzbach reported last year, and faced a serious chance of being shut down for good.

But one company has come forward: "So far, Ironshore Insurance has made a contribution to our project," Klotzbach said Tuesday. However, "no other sponsors have signed on the dotted line, so to speak."

Hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30. The first seasonal forecast from CSU is due April 10.

Contributing: Ryan Maye Handy, The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

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