Hurricane forecasters are sounding a warning bell for the U.S. East coast in their latest predictions for the 2014 hurricane season, even as overall tropical storm activity is predicted to be much-less than normal.

WeatherBell Analytics says the very warm water off of the Eastern Seaboard is a concern, along with the oncoming El Niño conditions.

In its latest commentary forecaster Joe Bastardi and the WeatherBell team notes:

We think this is a challenging year, one that has a greater threat of higher intensity storms closer to the coast, and, where like 2012, warnings will frequently be issued with the first official NHC advisory.”

WeatherBell Analytics is calling for a total of 8 to 10 named storms, with 3-5 hurricanes and 1-2 major hurricanes.

According to WeatherBell, there have been plenty of El Niño years with high impact seasons for the U.S. coast: 1957, 1965, 1969, 1976, 1983 (fading but still there), 1991, 1992, 2002, and 2004.

The forecasters say this pattern favors stronger storms (relative to normals) in-close to the U.S. rather than in the deep tropics which will have less to much-less than normal activity this year.

There is nothing to prohibit another Sandy-type hit from the southeast or three storms up the East Coast in one year despite a relatively low number of named storms in a season.”

Check out this post by Eric Holthaus over at Slate’s Future Tense blog for his take on how this year’s El Niño could grow into a monster.

Meanwhile, London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) has lowered its forecast and predicts Atlantic hurricane activity in 2014 will be about 25 percent below the 1950-2013 long-term norm and about 40 percent below the recent 2004-2013 10-year norm.

In its updated forecast TSR is calling for 12 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major (Category 3 and higher) hurricanes.

TSR says two key factors in its forecast for below-normal activity are: lighter trade winds over the Caribbean and North Atlantic coinciding with the likely development of a moderate El Niño; and cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic.

TSR says both these predictors will have a moderately suppressing effect on activity.

A post over at Artemis blog points out that while El Niño typically results in a below average hurricane season in terms of the number of storms that form, that is no guarantee of a benign season in terms of catastrophic losses as that is down to the strength or severity and path of any storms that do form.

Updated forecasts will be released around June 1, when hurricane season opens.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes.