Paul Nunn provides an overview of the 2007 hurricane season forecasts
After a quiet 2006, a pre-season storm (Andrea) and a rare cyclone hitting Oman and Iran (Gonu) already this year, reinsurers could be forgiven for getting jittery about the prospect of a return to 2005 activity levels.
In May this year, ahead of the official season start on 1 June, the major forecasters all expected activity levels to be above average, anticipating around 15-17 named storms between June and November 2007.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has called the season correctly seven out of nine times since they started in 1998, being caught out in 2005 along with almost everyone else, and 2001 when they called for a normal season, and it turned out to be very active.
Higher than average sea-temperatures in the “main development region” – the area between Africa and the Caribbean Sea – wetter conditions in West Africa (reducing dust particles over the Atlantic), and no chance of El Niño coming to the rescue all lead to the broad consensus among forecasters that it will be a busy year in terms of hurricane activity.
“After a quiet 2006 reinsurers could be forgiven for getting jittery about the prospect of a return to 2005 activity levels
Paul Nunn Head of exposure management, Lloyd’s
In 2006, only Dr Lian Xie at North Carolina State University got it right, predicting 5 to 6 hurricanes (there were five), but NC State also expect 2007 to be above average with 12-14 tropical storms, including eight to nine hurricanes.
The only good news at the moment is that the Bermuda High – the area of high pressure that forms over the Atlantic Ocean during the hurricane season – is in its usual position and there are no signs of the steering patterns we saw in 2005 that pushed hurricanes west towards the US. So there is always the hope that the majority of hurricanes won’t hit land, but this may well change as the season develops towards peak activity from August to October.
Ultimately nobody can predict the future, but at Lloyd’s we are preparing for the worst, using a range of tools including realistic disaster scenarios. It was this preparation that enabled syndicates to handle the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, and they are ready to weather the storms this year as well.