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Hurricane forecasters call for double-digit hurricane season in 2020


Two of the main hurricane forecasting teams that we track here at Artemis have both raised their seasonal forecast numbers for the 2020 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season significantly, with more than 10 hurricanes now expected to form.

hurricane-warning-surgeColorado State University (CSU) and Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) have released their latest forecast updates, in which they have both added a significant number of storms and hurricanes to reflect the continuing expectation that 2020 will see a particularly active year in the Atlantic basin.

We’ve already seen a record-breaking 9 named tropical storms so far this season, as the 2020 hurricane year got off to a very rapid start, with 2 of those making it to hurricane status.

With three U.S. landfalls now also seen, it’s become clear that 2020 will be a year where the insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) communities are on-watch for tropical storm activity at all times.

Looking at the forecasts, the Colorado State University (CSU) had last updated its forecast to call for 20 named tropical storms during the 2020 Atlantic season, with 9 becoming hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes of Cat 3 or greater.

Yesterday, the CSU team increased this in all areas, now forecasting 24 named storms, 12 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes for the 2020 season.

Meanwhile, the insurance and reinsurance industry supported Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) had last updated its forecast to call for 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes during the season.

Yesterday, the TSR forecast team increased this significantly to 24 named storms, 10 hurricanes and still 4 major hurricanes for 2020.

These really aren’t far off record numbers, as the most named storms ever recorded during a season was 28 in 2005, a year that saw 15 hurricanes and 7 major hurricanes.

If either of these new forecasts comes off for 2020, it will put the year as among the top 10, perhaps top 2 to 5, most active Atlantic tropical storm seasons on record.

Including these latest forecasts from CSU and TSR, our Artemis average has increased and now calls for 19 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes, which remains far-above the averages.

The CSU forecast team explain their reasoning and that landfall chances remain high as well, “We have increased our forecast and now call for an extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are much warmer than normal, and vertical wind shear is well below average. Current cool neutral ENSO conditions may transition to weak La Niña conditions by later this summer. We anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

The TSR team said, “The TSR (Tropical Storm Risk) early August forecast update for North Atlantic hurricane activity in 2020 anticipates a season with above-normal and likely hyperactive activity. Based on current and projected climate signals, Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity is forecast to be 60% above the 1950-2019 long- term norm and 40% above the recent 2010-2019 10-year norm. The forecast spans the period from 1st June to 30th November 2020 and employs data through to early August 2020. TSR increases its forecast from early July due to the July trade wind speed over the Caribbean Sea and tropical North Atlantic region being unusually enhancing for activity and because early season tropical storm and hurricane activity point to an above-normal season. The forecast increase is supported by other favourable factors including the expectation during August-September-October 2020 for weak La Niña ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) conditions and for warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central hurricane main development region. US landfalling tropical storm and hurricane numbers are also forecast to be above-normal as they have been during the hurricane season to date.”

So both forecast teams calling for continued above-normal landfall probabilities, in what is forecast to be one of the most active hurricane seasons ever.

Suggesting that, while so far the insurance, reinsurance and ILS market impacts haven’t been too significant from the storms that have made land, there is a high potential for 2020 to become a damaging year for the industry, should any of the major storms make their way towards the United States coastline.

TSR forecasts that 4 hurricanes and 9 tropical storms could make landfall in the United States during the 2020 hurricane season, a high number that may suggest a challenging season ahead for the reinsurance and ILS industry.

Of course, this does already include Hanna and Isaias for hurricanes and there already have been five landfalling tropical storms, Bertha, Christobal, Fay, Hanna and Isaias.

So does that mean we’re already over the hump, as far as landfall interaction goes for this hurricane season?

Well, the CSU forecast team now suggest a 74% chance a major hurricane makes landfall on the U.S. coastline, well above the average of 52%, and up on the 69% from their last forecast.

As we haven’t had a major hurricane yet this season, this suggests a relatively high degree of confidence that at least one will strike the United States this year.

For the east coast and Florida they give a 49% chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the 2020 season, well up on the 31% long-term average again and up on the 49% at the last release.

For the Gulf Coast the probability of major hurricane landfall is 48% in 2020, again above the average of 30%, and up on the last forecasts 44%%.

There’s also a 63% probability given for a major hurricane to track into the Caribbean, up on the average of 42%, and up on the 58% from the last forecast.

So landfall probabilities have risen in all cases, with the prospects of at least one major hurricane landfall in the United States seen as well above average.

So key forecasters are suggesting a very active, even hyperactive, 2020 hurricane season, with the potential for landfalling storms seen as elevated.

Of course there is no direct correlation to industry losses in these forecasts, which is what matters to ILS, cat bond and reinsurance market interests. As location is everything and specific meteorological factors can make the difference between a relatively benign market loss and one that’s very impactful.

However, the threat to lives could be severe this season, with so many storms expected in the water. So it has to be hoped that the steering currents drive the major storms away from land.

Track the 2020 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season on our dedicated page and we’ll update you as new information emerges and any meaningful storms form.

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