Reinsurance News

Above-average activity, higher chance of landfalls forecast for 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

12th April 2021 - Author: Luke Gallin

Initial projections from forecasters suggests that the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season could be very active, while the chance of major hurricane landfalls occurring is also seen as above-average.

hurricane-florence-noaaThe Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1st and runs until the end of November.

In 2020, the season witnessed an unprecedented 30 named storms, of which 13 reached hurricane strength.

Of these, six became major hurricanes with Category 3 wind speeds or higher, which is the second most major hurricanes in a season after 2005.

Of course, for global insurers and reinsurers it’s all about landfalls and during the 2020 season, six storms made landfall in the U.S.

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After an active year for storms in 2020, forecasters have now started to issue early projections for the upcoming season. And it could end up being another very active year, both in terms of storm formations and landfalls.

According to forecaster AccuWeather, more than 16 tropical storms are expected in 2021, of which at least seven are forecast to become hurricanes and at least three major hurricanes.

When compared with the 30-year average, the forecast from AccuWeather suggests that 2021 could well be another above-average year for tropical storm activity in the Atlantic.

Additionally, AccuWeather predicts that during the 2021 hurricane season, between three and five hurricanes will impact the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Current indications are this will be another above-normal season. This can translate into high impacts on the United States,” said Dan Kottlowski, meteorologist at AccuWeather.

At the same time, WeatherBELL Analytics has projected an even more active 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, with 16 to 22 named tropical storms forecast to form, of which between nine and 13 are forecast to reach hurricane status, with between three and six becoming major hurricanes.

According to WeatherBELL, La Nina will continue to be a factor through the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.

WeatherBELL also provides a forecast for major storm impacts, and finds that between three and six hurricane landfalls will occur in 2021, and that between two and four of these will be major impact landfall events.

The most recent forecast came from research meteorologists at Colorado State University (CSU), which calls for 17 tropical storm formations and eight hurricanes, four of which are expected to become major storms; so with Category 3 or stronger winds.

Again, important for insurers and reinsurers, the team at CSU also provides data on landfall probabilities for the 2021 Atlantic season.

According to CSU, there’s a 69% probability of a major Cat 3 or stronger hurricane hitting the U.S. – against an average of 52% for the last century. The team says there’s a 45% probability of a major hurricane impacting the U.S. east coast including Florida (average for last century is 31%); a 44% probability of a major storm hitting the Gulf Coast (average for last century is 30%); and a 58% probability of a major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean (average for last century is 42%).

Philip Klotzbach, leader of the forecast team at CSU, commented: “Reasons for above-average forecast include predicted lack of El Nino and warmer than normal subtropical Atlantic.

“One of the reasons for the above-average seasonal hurricane forecast from CSU is due to the likely lack of El Nino this summer/fall. El Nino generally increases vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes.

“The subtropical Atlantic is generally warmer than normal and tropical Atlantic is near average. The region with above-normal SSTs in Atlantic correlates fairly well with typical March SST pattern associated with above-normal hurricane seasons.”

Despite the record level of activity witnessed in 2020, losses for insurers and reinsurers, in many instances, were lower than first feared as landfall locations, for the most part, avoided areas with high asset values.

While activity in 2020 failed to materialise into the type of industry losses that might be expected with such a high number of formations and landfalls, carriers will be well aware that it only takes one major event striking a highly populated and urbanised coastal area to drive a significant volume of losses.

So, re/insurers will undoubtedly be on high alert ahead of what’s expected to be another very active year for storms in the Atlantic.

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