DENVER (AP) — Using a simplified forecasting technique, researcher William Gray is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic next year, with seven hurricanes, three of them major.

Gray's team at Colorado State University had called for above-average storm seasons the past two Decembers — and both turned out to be wrong.

But Gray said he believes this year's forecast will be better.

"We think we're finally onto a scheme that will be more accurate," he said Friday.

The new forecast calls for a total of 13 named storms in the Atlantic, with a slightly higher-than-average chance that at least one major hurricane will hit the United States.

Gray's predictions, now in their 25th year, are watched closely by emergency responders and others in hurricane-prone areas. But officials routinely express concerns that residents might become apathetic if predictions prove overblown.

Government forecasters also predicted an above-average season for 2007.

An average of 5.9 hurricanes form in the Atlantic each year.

Gray said his team based the 2008 extended-range forecast, issued six months before the June-November season, on three predictors. In the past, they have used as many as six.

The new method relies on water temperatures in the Atlantic and Pacific and the relationship between barometric pressure and altitude over the Atlantic. Gray said the method fared well when his forecasters applied it to conditions in previous years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues its first forecast in May.