Most mornings I wake up and, after checking the fate of certain baseball teams and world peace, neither of which have had good months, wander over to the Weather Underground and see if anything is going on in the tropics. It’s been very quiet recently. Does this mean that the experts have been wrong and Texas, among others, is going to escape 2013 without significant storm damage? Does this mean TWIA will be able to make it at least one more year without running out of money? Has the failure of Texas to address windstorm insurance reform during the past regular legislative session or over the course of three special sessions been, in fact, a brilliant allocation of time?
Unfortunately, the experts say the absence of much tropical activity thus far this summer doesn’t matter that much. The National Weather Service and Climate Prediction Center says we most likely have 9-15 named storms ahead of us in the Atlantic, 6-9 hurricanes and 3-5 major (Category 3-5) hurricanes. The August 2 forecast from Colorado State University, which for reasons unknown to me is a leader in this area notwithstanding the rarity of tropical moisture affecting Fort Collins, predicts 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes remaining. CSU sees a 43% chance for at least one hurricane hitting Texas in the remainder of the hurricane season and a 16% chance of a major hurricane impact. Tropical Storm Risk, a private organization affiliated with University College London and with close ties to the insurance and reinsurance industries, reports in its August forecast a a 50% probability that this hurricane season will be the top “tercile,” which means that it will be worse than 2/3 of other hurricane seasons in terms of “Accumulated Cyclone Energy,” a proxy for the destructive power of hurricanes when they hit land.
Now, all of this would not matter if predictions made in August had little value. After all, although it is seldom reported, predictions made in winter or spring about the forthcoming hurricane season are little better — and sometimes worse — than a blind prediction that the season will be average. Unfortunately, by the time August rolls around, and as shown in the graph below, there is enough climate data for experts to make pretty reliable predictions. It’s these predictions on which the popular press should be focusing. So, the fact that these experts — and others — are persisting in their prediction of a bad hurricane season are worrying. 14 storms over the 113 days left in “hurricane season” means one could see about a storm a week in the near future.
Credits, by the way, to Dr. Jeff Masters, of the Weather Underground for writing an excellent blog entry from which much of the material here has been adapted.