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Busy 2013 hurricane season forecast

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Insurers and reinsurers here in Bermuda are no doubt paying close attention to the many hurricane season forecasts that have been trickling in all week long.

Several forecasts have been released over the last few days and all suggest the same thing: we could be in for a very active storm season this year.

The latest and arguably, one of the most closely-watched forecast was released yesterday by meteorologists Philip Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology project.

The team of forecasters, who were the first organisation to issue seasonal hurricane forecasts back in 1984, are predicting an above average 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 named tropical storms, 9 of which will become hurricanes.

The forecast is for the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Mr Klotzbach said that of the nine predicted hurricanes, four will major hurricanes — categories 3, 4 or 5 — with sustained wind speeds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

“The tropical Atlantic has anomalously warmed over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El Nino event this summer and fall are unlikely,” Mr Klotzbach said in his report, adding that El Nino is associated with stronger vertical shear across the tropical Atlantic, creating conditions that are less conducive for storm formation.

The Colorado State team’s seasonal forecasts tend to be conservative.

For 2012, the team forecast ten named storms and four hurricanes for 2012 — far below what actually occurred. Last year, 19 storms formed, including 10 hurricanes. Three straight Atlantic hurricane seasons have had 19 storms.

Since 2000, the team has underforecast the number of named storms and hurricanes seven times, overforecast three times and been almost right (within two storms) three times.

Mr Klotzbach and his team also looked back at all of the hurricane seasons since 1900 to see which years had similar atmosphericoceanic conditions to those currently being experienced.

They found five seasons with characteristics most similar to what they’ve observed in February-March 2013: 1915, 1952, 1966, 1996 and 2004.

The 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was notable because more than half of the season’s 16 tropical cyclones brushed or struck the United States — including Hurricane Charley which became the second-costliest hurricane in US history, at the time, striking Florida as a Category 4, leaving $14 billion in damage in its path.

That same year, Hurricane Frances became the third costliest US hurricane at the time due to its impact on Florida.

The most significant storm in terms of intensity and damage caused in 2004 however was Hurricane Ivan.

It was a category 5 hurricane that devastated multiple countries in the Caribbean including Grenada, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba before entering the Gulf of Mexico and bringing catastrophic impact to the Gulf Coast of the US.

It struck Alabama as a category 3 and lingered moving across Florida, into Louisiana and Texas causing $18 billion in damage.

Ivan was the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and at its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, it was the size of the state of Texas.

The Colorado State team says there is a 72 percent chance of a major hurricane making landfall this year. The long-term average of that is 52 percent.

Forecasters at Aon Benfield’s Tropical Storm Risk are also predicting an above average 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, with three major hurricanes during the course of the season.

Tropical Storm Risk’s Mark Saunders and Adam Lea forecast 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and three of them category 3 or higher.

This is about 30 percent above the average storm formation levels, the forecasters said.

While they admit the forecast is very uncertain, Tropical Storm Risk is projects there is a 57 percent probability the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season will be above average, a 29 percent chance for a near-normal season and just a 14 percent chance of a below normal season.

WeatherBell Analytics, a private meteorological consulting firm that employs well-known meteorologists Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo, similarly predicts a “wild [hurricane] season”, adding that it could be a very dangerous hurricane season for the Caribbean and the southeast US.

The pair believe the 2013 will see hurricane activity shift back to the traditional paths seen in seasons such as 2004 and 2005 — with hurricanes tracking a little farther south than in 2012.

WeatherBell is calling for 16 named tropical storms, a very high 12 hurricanes and five hurricanes reaching Category 3 or higher.

Earlier this week, The Weather Channel’s Weather Services International said it too expects an active hurricane season with 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes.

And two weeks ago, ImpactWeather came out with its prediction for 2013 saying there could be fewer storms this year than in 2012, but more major hurricanes. Last year saw only one major hurricane out of 19 named storms.

Most of the forecasts suggest that lighter than normal trade winds across the Caribbean and tropical North Atlantic along with slightly warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are two major factors that could help intensify storms and cause more of them to form.

Many forecasters also suggest that the northern Gulf of Mexico to the east coast of Florida are the areas with the highest landfall risk for hurricanes in 2013.

The first names storms of the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1 and runs through November 30, will be Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian and Erin.

2004 Repeat?: Some forecasters predict the 2013 hurricane season could be a lot like that of 2004 when Hurricane Ivan became the tenth most intense hurricane ever recorded and slammed into the Gulf Coast of the US
Big one: Hurricane Ivan swirls over the US Gulf Coast.

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Published April 11, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 10, 2013 at 7:40 pm)

Busy 2013 hurricane season forecast

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