Canadian Underwriter

2022 hurricane season: Does a quiet start mean a quiet end?

September 7, 2022   by Jason Contant

Big wave breaking on rocks following hurricane

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Despite predictions of an “above normal” hurricane season this year, it’s started off with a whimper. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way, said Glenn McGillivray, managing director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR).

In early August, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a 60% chance of an above-normal hurricane season, with 14-20 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes (Category 3+) between June and November. Colorado State University researchers called for 18 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

Both NOAA and CSU slightly reduced their forecast totals for this year’s hurricane season, but still anticipated above-normal activity for the seventh consecutive season.

Given these predictions, this season has been very quiet—so far, McGillivray said told Canadian Underwriter. There were no North Atlantic hurricanes in all of August. This has only happened twice since 1960, and it was the first time this occurred in 25 years, McGillivray reported.

“But hurricane season officially runs to Nov. 30, so there is still plenty of time for an active season,” he said. “What’s more, hurricanes don’t mind the calendar.

“The season could run straight through to the end of the year and into 2023, like it did in 2005, for example. September is peak hurricane season and October is often quite busy, too. We’ll have to see what happens.”

What’s contributing to this slow start?

Experts are attributing it to dry, dusty air blowing off the Sahara in Africa that has prevented convection or rising water vapour from whipping up the usual storms, McGillivray reported. Experts are also pointing to stubborn ridges of high pressure in northern latitudes that have been leading to very strong, long-lasting heatwave events with droughts (in Asia and Europe, for example) for keeping atmosphere moisture at bay.

“But more storm activity is being experienced in places like the Gulf of Mexico, which could be an indication that these ridges may be weakening,” McGillivray said. “And the high surface temperature of water in the Gulf will surely fuel the development of hurricanes in the weeks ahead.

“All in all, experts are calling for hurricane season to ramp up.”

Indeed, the Canadian Press reported on Wednesday that Hurricane Kay gained strength in the Pacific Ocean and began lashing Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula with rain. Kay’s maximum sustained winds rose to 155 km/h (Category 2), centred about 355 kilometres southwest of the southern tip of the Baja peninsula.

“Regardless of whether hurricane season turns out to be really busy or a bit of a bust, we have to remember it only takes one big landfalling storm to cause a major loss event,” McGillivray said. “We have to remain vigilant, on Canada’s east coast as well.”

In Canada, hurricanes usually impact Atlantic Canada as post-tropical storms. Two major ones in recent history include Hurricanes Dorian and Larry, initially estimated by Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. to have caused more than $105 million and $25 million in insured damage in 2019 and 2021, respectively.


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