Insurance News

A Milder Hurricane Outlook From AccuWeather

Posted on: April 4, 2009

The 2009 hurricane season will see three hurricanes impacting the U.S. coast, compared with four that arrived last year, and a lower total number of named storms, according to an early forecast.

Joe Bastardi, AccuWeather chief long-range and hurricane forecaster, also predicted storms may be more likely to form in the Atlantic basin closer to the coast. The possibility of a major hurricane making a U.S. landfall cannot be ruled out, he warned.

“This year’s forecast shows only half as many impacts on the United States as there were last year,” Mr. Bastardi said. “But keep in mind, it only takes one major hurricane hitting a highly populated area to have devastating impact.”

“Early indications show a reduction in the overall number of named storms and of major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin compared to last year, but the number of storms should still be near or a little above normal.”

The meteorologist pointed to several factors influencing the forecast, including:

• Dissipation of the weak La Niña in the Pacific Ocean. A reverse to a weak El Niño, which is associated with decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic, is most likely in the middle to latter part of the hurricane season.

• The expected orientation of high pressure in the eastern Atlantic will produce stronger easterly trade winds across northern Africa than last year. This will result in increased dust and dry air being pushed westward into the Atlantic where many tropical storms originate.

• Cooler water temperatures in the deep tropical Atlantic, a typical breeding ground for hurricanes, which can reduce hurricane activity and intensity. This may create a season in which storms are reaching a greater intensity further north and east than last year, leading to less impact in the Caribbean areas hit hard last year.

• A continuing multidecadal pattern of higher-than-average water temperatures in the Atlantic, raising the chance of major storms near the East Coast until about 2020.

Mr. Bastardi forecasted that while there will be 13 storms this year, compared with 16 in 2008, the number of hurricanes will remain the same at eight. He predicted two major hurricanes compared with five last year and one major hurricane hitting the coast compared with none last year.

Copyright © 2009 by National Underwriter Property & Casualty Magazine.

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