Gulf Coast may be exception of average 2019 hurricane season, NC State forecasts

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The U.S. east coast is expected to see an about average level of storm activity during the coming 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, but the Gulf of Mexico could differ, with above average activity forecast by the team at North Carolina State University.

hurricane-irma-2017The North Carolina State University forecasters are among the group we track here on Artemis, as a service to our insurance, reinsurance and ILS market readers. Details available on our dedicated Atlantic hurricane season page for 2019.

Overall, Lian Xie, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at NC State, is forecasting 13 to 16 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin during the 2019 tropical storm season, a little higher than the long-term (1950 to 2018) average of 11 named storms, but in line with the recent (1995 to 2018) average of 14.

Of these, Xie forecasts that five to seven of the tropical storms may become hurricanes, aligned with the historical average of six, while two to three storms could become major hurricanes of category 3 or greater.

However, while the overall Atlantic basin forecast for the 2019 hurricane season is for average levels of activity, the forecaster drills down into the Gulf of Mexico and highlights it as a region that has the potential for higher than normal storm formation.

Xie forecasts that four to seven named tropical storms will form in the Gulf, with one to two becoming a hurricane.

The historic averages for the Gulf of Mexico are three named storms and one hurricane, so Xie’s NC State forecast is for a higher than normal level of Gulf hurricane activity in 2019.

Of course the Gulf of Mexico is an area where sea surface temperatures (SST’s) can easily support tropical storm formation and intensification, meaning if storms do form there they often have the potential to reach hurricane status.

Hence an above average forecast for the Gulf may put some communities on the Gulf Coast on watch, as storms can have damaging impacts here.

Given the impacts seen from Gulf Coast hurricanes in recent history, including storms such as Harvey, Katrina, Ike and others, the insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) sector cannot be complacent about potential impacts in that basin.

Xie’s forecast methodology looks at over 100 years of historical data on Atlantic hurricane positions and intensity, as well as other variables, such as weather patterns and sea-surface temperatures in order to predict how many storms will form in each ocean basin.

For 2019, Xie notes that the potential for an ongoing weak El Niño to strengthen means there is significant uncertainty in the forecast.

Adding Xie’s forecast numbers to the others we track maintains our Artemis average forecast for the 2019 hurricane season of 13 named tropical storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.

Keep track of all the 2019 Atlantic hurricane forecasts and every tropical storm as it forms over on our dedicated Atlantic hurricane season page for 2019.

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