Weather forecaster Accuweather is predicting another above-average U.S. tornado season for 2012. Last year saw a near record number of tornadoes over the course of the season, with 2011 seeing 1,709 officially recorded tornadoes which was just short of the record of 1,817. The average for the last decade is only 1,300. 2011 also ranks as the fourth most deadly tornado year ever and one of the highest for insured losses on record. It also impacted the catastrophe bond market as the two Mariah Re cat bonds were triggered and investors face losses.
An above-normal number of tornadoes is expected again in 2012. Warmer than average waters in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the key components that Accuweather see heralding a severe tornado season. There will be a sufficient supply of warm, humid air to fuel supercell thunderstorms, the type that spawn tornadoes.
The weak to moderate La Niña event experienced this winter is much weaker than the one last winter and is continuing to weaken according to Accuweather. This can influence where sever weather is experienced, and Accuweather says that areas that avoided severe weather last year could see an uptick in events this year. They single out the mid-Mississippi and upper Ohio valleys as areas that may get hit more this season, this includes Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
The Deep South including Gulf states is expected to be hit early in the season this year during March, by April the severe weather will have moved further north.
Accuweather note that there is no way to know whether 2012 will be as active as 2011. However the year has got off to a particularly active start with January alone seeing 95 tornado reports, well above the average of 35. If that trend continues this years tornado season could result in another heavy insured loss toll.
Interestingly the first catastrophe bond to cover severe thunderstorm and tornado since the default of the Mariah Re bonds came to market yesterday. East Lane Re V Ltd. will cover severe thunderstorms in Alabama, Florida, North & South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Investors in that cat bond will be watching the tornado season unfold with great interest.
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