MIAMI — U.S. government forecasters are expecting three to six major hurricanes from an above average Atlantic storm season.

The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration released its forecast for the 2011 season Thursday.

Scientists say as many as 18 named tropical storms may develop. Six to 10 of those could strengthen into hurricanes with top winds of at least 74 mph. Three to six could become major hurricanes, with maximum winds of 111 mph and up.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Last year’s hurricane season was one of the busiest on record with 19 named storms, including 12 hurricanes. No major hurricane has made a U.S. landfall in the last five years, but scientists say coastal residents can’t expect their luck to hold.

Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures*

2011: 2 degrees above normal

2010: 4 degrees above normal

*Warmer temperatures generate and strengthen tropical cyclones

El Nino/La Nina Pacific sea temperatures*

2011: Neutral, dissipating La Nina

*El Nino warm-water conditions create winds that shear hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Saharan dust storms*

2011: Normal

*Dust blowing into the Atlantic off the Sahara Desert stunts tropical cyclone formation.

Bermuda High*

2011: Too soon to say

*The positioning of a high pressure system in the Atlantic tends to steer tropical cyclones into the Caribbean or toward the Southeast coast

South Carolina tropical cyclone landfalls in recent history:

Oct. 15, 1954: Hurricane Hazel

July 11, 1959: Tropical Storm Cindy

Sept. 29, 1959: Hurricane Gracie

Aug. 21, 1976: Tropical Depression Dottie

Sept. 21, 1989: Hurricane Hugo

Oct. 11, 2002: Tropical Storm Kyle

Aug. 14, 2004: Hurricane Charley

Aug. 29, 2004: Hurricane Gaston