The hurricane season in the Atlantic basin officially starts on June 1. After several years of above-average seasons, what is the forecast for this year? Catastrophe risk experts from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) and Allianz Re share their predictions based on their own projections and the early assessments of international hurricane forecasting institutes1 in their dummy. The last six hurricane seasons have been characterized by above-average activity and this trend is expected to continue in the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season. To minimize losses in the event of a hurricane, businesses need to develop and implement a comprehensive crisis plan, including actions to take before, during, and after a storm.
According to the latest available forecasts, the 2022 hurricane season is expected to be above the 1991-2020 average, with 14-21 tropical storms and six to 10 hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes (for comparison: an above-average season would be seven to nine storms reaching hurricane strength and two to four becoming major hurricanes, which is Category 3 or higher).
Looking back, the 2021 hurricane season was the third most active season on record, as well as the third costliest after 2017 and 2005. In late August, Hurricane Ida caused widespread damage in the Caribbean before devastating the coast of Louisiana, generating record rainfall in various locations, and flash flooding in the north-east US, resulting in insured losses of $36bn2.
The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season saw a total of 21 named storms, of which seven were hurricanes (four reached a major hurricane status). The number of named storms well exceeded the average of 14 and the total number of major hurricanes is also slightly above the average of three. “The main factors contributing to an above-average hurricane season in 2021 included La Niña, above-normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) early in the season, and above-average West African Monsoon rainfall,” explains AGCS Catastrophe Risk Research Analyst Mabé Villar Vega.
Recent Atlantic hurricane seasons have seen the first tropical storms form before the official start date of June 1. As a result, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Center has contemplated moving the start date to May 15. The extension of hurricane activity could in some respects be attributed to the development of advanced observational technologies, which can identify weaker storms that never come close to any landmass, adding to tropical storm counts.
Another contributory factor to the extension of seasonal storm activity is likely to be higher SSTs. Tropical storms can only form and sustain themselves for longer periods where ocean temperatures exceed 27°C. Manmade global warming has increased atmospheric temperature by 1.1°C since 1880, with most of the net excess heat stored in the world’s oceans, including the North Atlantic. This has increased the duration of hurricane-supporting SSTs as well as the geographical spread of where they might occur.