Hurricane Joaquin track shifts east again, strengthens slightly

by Artemis on September 30, 2015

Category 3 hurricane Joaquin has intensified a little further, with sustained winds now 125mph at 11am EDT, 3pm UTC. Joaquin is a severe threat to the Bahamas, currently passing over some of the islands and poses a landfall threat to the U.S. either later this weekend or early next week, but with the forecast track still uncertain.

Update – 2nd Oct 2015, 03:00am EST, 08:00am GMT. Hurricane Joaquin has strengthened to a Category 4 storm and continues to batter the Bahamas. However the forecast track has now moved completely offshore from the U.S. coast. A severe flood threat remains for U.S. states due to rainfall and coastal effects of Joaquin as the storm moves north. Read our latest update here.

Hurricane Joaquin satellite imageJoaquin continues to drift slowly south west through the Bahamas. After a period of rapid intensification Joaquin is deemed the second major hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season, but intensification has slowed.

As a Category 3 storm the potential threat to the insurance, reinsurance, ILS and catastrophe bond market remains very real indeed, with the forecast still showing a potential east coast landfall, although another eastward shift in the forecast has Joaquin coming ashore further north now.

The sea surface temperatures around the Bahamas are high, definitely sufficient for further intensification and the Joaquin is expected to get stronger, perhaps becoming a Category 4 hurricane, according to the NHC.

However, the still complex arrangement of weather systems makes the forecast path much more uncertain for hurricane Joaquin.

A tropical low from the Gulf should steer Joaquin to the north after interacting with the Bahamas, this turn has now begun, but as the hurricane travels north a number of models still show Joaquin being dragged into a left-hook, resulting in a mid to north Atlantic U.S. east coast landfall.

Currently hurricane Joaquin has sustained winds of 125mph, with higher gusts of as much as 155mph, and a minimum central pressure of 942mb.

Joaquin is passing over some of the Bahamas islands, where the risk to property and lives cannot be underestimated from a storm of this magnitude.

The latest model runs have shifted the forecast path slightly further east again, showing Joaquin possibly landfalling anywhere from North Carolina to Maine. The center of the forecast path has shifted slightly and now targets Long Island directly, putting New York slightly further away from the center of the track.

The ultimate direction Joaquin heads in remains very uncertain at this time though, but this is without doubt a hurricane to continue watching closely for insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) players.

Note: All of the graphics on this page will update with the latest information as it becomes available.

Hurricane Joaquin forecast path or track

Hurricane Joaquin forecast path or track

The eastern U.S. is experiencing extremely heavy rainfall, due to a plume of moisture sent west ahead of Joaquin. Forecasts suggest rainfall totals for eastern states of anywhere from 2 to 4 inches, but locally some models show rainfall potential well into double figures over the coming days, particularly around the Carolina’s.

Joaquin also coincides with high tides and there is a risk of some coastal flooding as a result. In fact there are coastal flood warnings in effect in some areas of Florida as a result of this confluence of factors. Swells and high surf are expected to affect the south eastern U.S. coast in the coming days, which could result in some coastal flooding.

Similarly, flash flood warnings are in place for many areas of the eastern and north eastern U.S., due to the expectation of a number of days of extremely heavy rainfall. Coming in advance of a potential landfalling storm (note, potential, still significant uncertainty) and that could exacerbate any future impacts due to the ground already being soaked.

Meteorologists discussions on hurricane Joaquin are focused on the potential for a left turn into the U.S. coastline. There remains certainty that Joaquin will make the right and northward turn near or over the Bahamas, the tropical low from the Gulf will ensure that this happens, but any left turn later this coming weekend remains uncertain.

Some of the latest forecast model runs show a straighter path ashore around Long Island, rather than the left hook, although a number of models still show a hook into anywhere as far south as North Carolina.

Latest computer model forecasts for hurricane Joaquin

Latest computer model forecasts for hurricane Joaquin - Source:

For the insurance, reinsurance, catastrophe bond and insurance-linked securities (ILS) markets it is still too early to suggest a major impact.

There is sure to be a degree of insurance industry losses due to flooding from the expected heavy rainfall down the U.S. eastern states over the coming days, that is guaranteed. Whether flooding alone will be extreme enough to result in wider financial impacts is impossible to say.

There is also an expectation of some losses in the Bahamas now, as Joaquin is hitting some of the islands with its Category 3 winds and a storm surge and this is expected to last for some hours into tonight. A hurricane warning remains in effect for a number of the Bahamas islands and the forecast is for a storm surge of as much as 5 to 10 feet, enough to inundate, as well as rainfall of as much as 10 to 20 inches in places.

For reinsurance firms, insurance-linked securities (ILS) fund managers and ILS or catastrophe bond investors, the main threat is the left turn steering currents that may drive hurricane Joaquin into the east coast, as many of the forecast models now suggest.

Under those circumstances there is the potential for the largest insurance and reinsurance loss of the year, perhaps since Sandy. Of course much of the outstanding catastrophe bond market would also be exposed to any landfall, given the prevalence of U.S. hurricane exposures in the market. But it must be stressed again, that at this time the uncertainty in the forecast remains high.

The latest forecast shows Joaquin weakening slightly as it moves towards a U.S. landfall early next week. In terms of potential impact to insurance and reinsurance, that shift east in the models could be significant as it gives Joaquin longer to weaken on its northern track. But uncertainty remains and it’s still too early to call Joaquin’s final path. An earlier left hook could bring a much stronger hurricane ashore.

Further runs of models over the next day or so will add increasing certainty into the forecast path for hurricane Joaquin. However at this stage we would suggest that Joaquin remains the first storm of the 2015 season that the reinsurance, ILS and catastrophe bond market needs to keep a very close watch on.

We will update you over the coming days as hurricane Joaquin’s forecast becomes more certain.

Official National Hurricane Center forecast path for hurricane Joaquin

Official National Hurricane Center forecast path for hurricane Joaquin

Animated wind map of hurricane Joaquin:

You can clearly see the complex weather patterns and the trough along which Joaquin is expected to get pulled north and eventually west.

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