You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, wrote Bob Dylan, but their work sure can help property owners and businesses brace for periods of extreme conditions. However, weather is complex and no matter how much data meteorologists comb through and how precise they try to be, their projections often need to be adjusted.
Catastrophe Risk Research Analyst Mabé Villar Vega from Allianz Commercial explains that experts are dealing with several complex atmospheric conditions occurring at the same time. Many of these interactions are very difficult or even impossible to simulate, especially at larger scale, so predictions often need to be revised. For example, in 2022, there was a significant discrepancy between the near-average outcome and the pre-season forecasts of above-average hurricane activity.
“A series of factors inhibited the formation of cyclones and contributed to a more stable atmosphere than expected,” she explains. “Among these were the presence of Saharan dust, increased vertical wind shear and generally warm, drier-than-usual air across the Atlantic basin leading to the near-average 2022 Atlantic hurricane season.”
But even in years of subdued activity, violent hurricanes can strike. In 2022, Hurricane Ian, which swiped Cuba and the south-eastern US in late September, became the third costliest hurricane recorded (after Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey). Some 161 people died, and damages passed $113 billion. Hurricane Nicole hit the US on 10 November, making it the latest calendar year hurricane to land on the east coast of Florida.
After hurricanes Charley (2004) and Irma (2017), stricter building standards were implemented in Florida. The roofs destroyed by Irma roofs were rebuilt following the newer building standards, leading to enhanced resistance to wind damage. Without these enhancements, Villar Vega suggests, the wind damage losses due to Hurricane Ian would likely have been higher.