Posted on 19 Mar 2009
An early hurricane season forecast predicts fewer landfalls in the U.S. and fewer named storms, two signs that could aid property-casualty insurers in an economy that is faltering.
Accuweather.com forecaster Joe Bastardi is predicting that four storms will affect the Atlantic Coast, with three being hurricanes and one being a major hurricane. Last year, he also predicted four hurricanes, although none major hitting the Atlantic.
“This year's forecast shows only half as many impacts on the United States as there were last year,” Bastardi said in a statement. “Early indications show a reduction in the overall number of named storms and of major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin compared to last year, but the number of storms should still be near or a little above normal.”
Based on his analysis, storms may be more likely to form in the Atlantic Basin closer to the Atlantic Coast and the possibility of a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. remains possible.
In all, Bastardi predicts 13 storms, three fewer than last year’s forecast, and he is expecting eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes, including the one he predicts will hit the U.S. coast.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which typically runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, has been of major concern to insurers since 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused 1,836 deaths and $81.2 billion in damages, primarily along the Gulf Coast, making it the costliest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.
In Katrina’s wake came increased interest in hurricane forecasts and shifts in the marketplace, including property-casualty insurance companies raising rates and writing fewer risks in these hurricane-prone areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Bastardi said a continuing years-long pattern of higher-than-average water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean increase the potential for a major storm to hit the East Coast through about 2020. Bastardi predicts that cooler water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean could mean storms reaching a “greater intensity” further north and east along the Atlantic Coast, not in the Caribbean areas hit hard last year.
He also pointed to the weak la Niña in the Pacific Ocean, which will dissipate, leading to a reverse to a weak el Niño, which is associated with decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean. That change is likely to occur in the middle to latter part of the hurricane season, he said.
The expected orientation of high pressure in the eastern Atlantic Ocean will produce stronger easterly trade winds across northern Africa than last year, leading to increased dust and dry air being pushed westward into the Atlantic Ocean where many tropical storms originate.
Bastardi also pointed to cooler water temperatures in the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean. This area is typically a breeding ground for hurricanes, which can reduce hurricane activity and intensity.
Last year, hurricanes an estimated $13.3 billion in losses, more than in 2006 and 2007. Severe weather events — those producing damaging winds, large hail, tornadoes, and flooding — caused an estimated $10.5 billion in losses. Two tropical storms cost insurers $300 million last year.