2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Likely To Be More Severe Than Usual
Current forecasts predict that the upcoming hurricane season will be more severe than the long-term average. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, hurricanes making landfall would pose additional challenges to response and recovery, including labor shortages, supply chain issues, and more challenging coastal evacuations. This means, it is more important than ever to focus on loss prevention now.
Most seasonal forecasts currently expect 16 or more tropical cyclones to form in the North Atlantic. Of these, 8 could reach hurricane strength, and 4 could even develop into major hurricanes. However, there are uncertainties in these forecasts.
In comparison: the long-term average (1950–2019) for the number of tropical cyclones per season in the North Atlantic is around 12. Of these, an average of 6.3 reach hurricane strength and 2.5 become major hurricanes. The anticipated storm activity for 2020 corresponds roughly to the average values for the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) warm phase since the mid-1990s in the tropical North Atlantic.
Actual storm counts are difficult to predict as they are influenced by a large number of factors, such as the state of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific. Hurricane activity in the North Atlantic tends to be reduced during El Niño phases.
Forecasts from the month of May expect weak El Niño conditions currently seen in the eastern equatorial Atlantic to disappear, with neutral conditions close to borderline La Niña for the main months of the hurricane season (August–October). For this reason, it is unlikely that climate variations will have any mitigating influence on storm activity in the Atlantic this year. At the same time, water temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic are expected to be higher than average, meaning there is more fuel available for potential intensification of storms.
As usual, it is not possible to forecast losses for the tropical cyclone season. Potential tracks and landfalls can only be estimated for specific storms, and only days in advance. Given the extreme losses from tropical storms, a key factor in long-term loss prevention will be to ensure storm-resistant building construction. All it takes is a single powerful storm to hit a major urban area for substantial devastating losses to occur.
One thing is clear: as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, our society is now more susceptible in the event of a natural disaster as the recovery resources may be limited. Right now is the time to review your insurance policies, and work with your agent to make adjustments as necessary, before a hurricane strikes.
For information only. Not applicable to all situations.
Original version of this article written by Eberhard Faust and Mark Bove can be found on Munich Re Topics Online. Adapted with permission.
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