The 2022 Hurricane Season Begins on Heels of Costly Winter and Spring
Ready or not, today marks the beginning of what will likely be another active hurricane season.
It may be difficult for businesses and insurers to fathom processing thousands of more claims after what they’ve already had to pay out this spring. Hail, wind, and tornado reports are pacing well above running trend lines, especially in states across the Deep South that are also very hurricane-prone.
Even though the projections for the season don’t look good, it’s important to remember that preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. And the costliest hurricanes don’t typically hit for another two or three months.
Forecasts Point to Active Hurricane Season Ahead
Nearly all reputable forecasts for the season ahead include above-average numbers for hurricanes and tropical storms. The average hurricane forecast this year is nine, according to HurricaneSeasonalPredictions.org. The 30-year average is just under seven.
Twenty-one forecasts have been submitted to the website hosted by Colorado State University. Above-average numbers are also projected for named tropical storms, major hurricanes, and accumulated cyclone energy (ACE).
The absence of an El Niño is the primary factor driving the higher numbers again this year. El Niño’s warmer Pacific waters create strong upper-level winds across the Caribbean and western Atlantic, shearing storms apart. However, a more favorable upper-level environment combined with the early signs that water temperatures could be above average yields increasing confidence that a busy season lies ahead.
Severe Weather Season Shifting North
It’s been a destructive winter and spring across the U.S. so far. As of May 30, there were 778 tornado reports nationwide based on preliminary data from the Storm Prediction Center. The numbers are pacing above the running 10-year trend line and in the top five since 2005. 109 tornadoes have occurred in Mississippi alone.
Hail and wind damage reports, totaling 2952 and 5170 respectively, are also pacing above recent averages. This followed an extraordinarily active and deadly December when two tornado outbreaks ravaged parts of the Tennessee Valley and Northern Plains within five days.
The higher counts of severe weather over the past six months could likely be attributed to a persistent La Niña1, the opposite of El Niño. La Niña is a cooling of the equatorial Pacific waters that tends to amplify upper-level winds over the Central U.S. in the winter and spring months.
Severe weather outbreaks tend to shift north and west in the late spring and early summer every year. The influence of La Niña on the extreme weather patterns also usually becomes less pronounced over the summer. Hopefully, this will give storm-weary business owners across the South time to catch their breath before turning an eye to the tropics.
Climatology May Provide a Break
Headlines run rampant when the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1, but most of the action doesn’t kick in until a couple of months later.
Nearly two-thirds of all Atlantic basin hurricanes develop after August 152, and 84 of the 88 hurricane direct hits to the U.S. occurred during August, September, and October3. However, costly tropical storms can (and do) come ashore during the first two months of the season. Recent examples of this include Tropical Storms Allison (2001), Debby (2012), and Bill (2015).
The relatively quieter months of June and July may give business owners and insurers some much-needed time to prepare for a direct hurricane hit. Planning for impacts from an individual storm rather than reacting to a seasonal forecast is the best way to position your resources appropriately. Your hurricane plan should include higher quality weather data and a guide on how to use it to help you make the most cost-efficient and effective decisions as a storm is approaching.
1 The Impact of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on Winter and Early Spring U.S. Tornado Outbreaks in: Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology Volume 56 Issue 9 (2017) (ametsoc.org)
2Tropical Cyclone Climatology (noaa.gov)