The UK’s Met Office has forecast an average hurricane season in the Atlantic basin for 2021, with storm and hurricane levels expected to roughly match the 1991 to 2020 average.
The forecast is actually the lowest of all those we track on our 2021 Atlantic hurricane season page, as the others have all forecast an above-average season ahead.
The UK Met Office has called for 14 named tropical storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major Category 3 or stronger hurricanes to form during the 2021 Atlantic tropical season, which is bang on the NOAA set average of the last 20 years.
However, the UK Met Office does leave room for the 2021 hurricane season to be above, or even below average saying there is a 70% chance of between 9 and 19 named storms forming, a 70% chance of their being between 4 and 10 hurricanes, and a 70% chance that major hurricanes number between 1 and 5.
Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) is forecast to be 117, slightly below the 121 average.
But again the UK Met Office gives a 70% chance that the ACE index will be in the range 44 to 190, leaving a lot of scope for a more active, or less active 2021 hurricane season.
Adding this latest forecast into the mix of those we track on our dedicated hurricane season page, reduces our Artemis average forecast down to 17 named tropical storms, 8 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes (dropping from 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes), with ACE now predicted to be around 143 (down from 150).
Our Artemis average is now getting very close to the near-term average of the last decade of seasons, which sits at 17 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
Should the insurance, reinsurance, insurance-linked securities (ILS) and catastrophe bond market read too much into the lower forecast from the UK Met Office, or the reduction in our average?
As ever, it’s hard to say, as forecast skill levels remain relatively low, especially if you review the forecasts for recent seasons and the actual storm and hurricane numbers.
In addition, it’s important to remember that, while forecasts provide some directional sense of the level of tropical storm activity we may see in a given season, it’s in no way an indicator of potential reinsurance or ILS market losses.
One reason the UK Met Office’s forecast may be a little lower could be that the official pronouncement of the end of the La Nina came just a few days ago from NOAA.
Forecasters generally seem to think neutral ENSO conditions, to perhaps slight La Nina conditions again later in the hurricane season, are most likely for 2021, which may have some bearing on activity levels being seen as likely to be closer to the norm.
But steering currents and wind-shear are once again going to be critical factors, in whether tropical storms or hurricanes approach landfall, get degraded by shear, or spin out to see.
That’s what really matters to reinsurance and ILS as we move into the season and those are factors that are much harder to make an attempt to predict.
Track the 2021 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season on our dedicated page and we’ll update you as new forecasts and information emerges.