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Pioneering hurricane forecaster dies at 86

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William M. Gray, who pioneered seasonal hurricane forecasts at Colorado State University in the 1980s, died Saturday at the age of 86.

An obituary at Fort Collins, Colorado-based CSU's Tropical Meteorology Project said that Mr. Gray had remained active in his hurricane and climate change research until the time of his death.

Mr. Gray's Atlantic Basin hurricane forecasts, which were supported in part by contributions from the insurance industry, drew widespread attention. The CSU team's most recent forecast called for an average Atlantic hurricane season this year.

Mr. Gray is “best known worldwide for his seasonal hurricane predictions,” wrote Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at CSU who worked with Mr. Gray, in an online eulogy.

“He instituted these predictions when he discovered that El Nino impacted Caribbean and tropical Atlantic vertical windshear. This was the first time that any group had issued seasonal forecast for the Atlantic. Now, nearly two dozen groups have followed his lead issuing these predictions, He has consistently issued these forecasts for over 30 years — a track record unparalleled for university predictions."

Mr. Gray earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago and joined the newly-formed Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU in 1961. He served as a full-time professor until 2005 and remained involved with the forecasting project until his death.

The obituary gave no cause of death for Mr. Gray. He is survived by three children and two grandchildren.